Will Regulators Use Carveout To Launch Retail MA Sports Betting?

Written By Matthew Waters on August 9, 2022
MA sports betting

It could take until next year for mobile MA sports betting to launch. The speed of retail’s rollout, however, depends on state regulators.

Retail Massachusetts sportsbooks could launch sooner than mobile through a temporary license provision in H 5164 that allows temporary licenses for the five eligible retail entities.

That could lead to legal regular-season NFL betting in Massachusetts this year after all.

Commission preaches patience on MA sports betting

There are two simple steps to award a temporary license, explained Foley Hoag attorney Kevin Conroy. He has worked on Massachusetts gaming matters in the past, including working with DraftKings to shape DFS regulations in the state.

To award a temporary license, the commission must confirm the entity is eligible and confirm minimal protocols are in place. The applicant also has to pay a $1 million fee.

The commission, however, made it clear Thursday they were not interested in sacrificing their process to move things faster.

“This is a process and the suitability and the vetting of the applicants and making sure the rules and the regulations are accurate and appropriate to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth in this process is critical to the mission,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said. “So we will move expeditiously if and when this is signed but we will do it in a manner that is consistent with our responsibilities as a regulatory body.”

Temporary licenses cause for concern?

Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein also issued caution over how temporary licenses are issued:

“The temporary licensure process is one and I know, [Executive Director] Karen [Wells], you and I recently received some good advice at a conference, that it too comes with – could come with a host of concerns. But it also is a vehicle for getting things going. It’s just one of those processes that needs to be carefully implemented.”

An audit of the first year of sports betting in Colorado found there were insufficient background checks while issuing temporary licenses when the market launched in 2020.

Lesser expects fall sports betting launch

Sports betting could be live by October and will “definitely” be ready for the fall football season, according to Sen. Eric Lesser. He also noted the five eligible entities have a leg up on the situation:

“I think definitely the known players will have some level of advantage, right, because they kind of know the process, they’ve been through background checks for the brick and mortars, at least, back in 2011. So they might be able to get that up and running quick.”

The commission is planning a roundtable with those five operators to discuss the next steps. They may try to push the commission toward the legislative interpretation of minimal scrutiny held by Lesser and others, Conroy said. Without that, though, the temporary licenses might take longer than necessary to issue.

“What I heard [Thursday] is the Gaming Commission wants to do much more scrutiny on the applicants for a temporary license than is laid out in the bill,” Conroy said. “And, of course, that’s going to take more time if they want to do that.”

Rush Street has Massachusetts sports betting access

There are four confirmed sports betting operators that will be live in Massachusetts, according to Rush Street Interactive.

Rush Street noted it had both retail and mobile sports betting access in Massachusetts on its Q2 earnings presentation. That would suggest a partnership with one of the two simulcast facilities, as the casinos will use their own brands.

Barstool Sportsbook (Penn Entertainment), BetMGM and WynnBET have access through their land-based casinos. There would be 11 online skins left with BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse in the mix.

Rush Street did not comment on details of their access when asked by LSR.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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