The Massachusetts Gaming Commission tap-danced around sports betting last week when it met before the legislation was signed.
Thursday’s meeting was a day after Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill. Commissioners, though, are still not ready to make any concrete decisions, it appears.
The meeting came and went with just one new piece of information: retail stakeholders will meet with commissioners at 10 am Aug. 18. Leaders of the three casinos and two simulcast facilities can talk about potential next steps including timelines on when they could launch their Massachusetts sportsbooks.
How will Massachusetts sports betting launch?
Commissioner Bradford Hill asked the question everyone waiting to bet on sports in Massachusetts wanted to hear: will retail operators get to launch first?
“In terms of timing, are we addressing those facilities first and then dealing with the seven other licenses? Are we doing this all at the same time? I would think, without knowing all the facts, that we would want to get up and running as quickly as possible the five entities that are already here but understanding that does that get us in trouble if we give them them five and then take our time with the other seven?”
Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein used a lot of words to essentially say, maybe:
“That’s why we are inviting for our first roundtable just our current licensees because they are positioned differently, right? So I think that there is a real question about who stands up first.
“And my recommendation, if it can work out with the team and their bandwidth and all of their workings, is to kind of do it simultaneously where the licensees that are doing in-person, they can be stood up for retail, but at the same time working on the mobile operators because our current licensees are going to be very interested in the mobile op.”
Timeline comes down to the commission
It is up to the commission what will happen with the launch timeline, Wells said.
The commission could give a directive to Wells and her team to get retail done first. The commission can also decide what to do once an applicant is ready to go live, she added.
One thing Wells said would help with timing is clarity on how many sportsbooks will bid for a mobile-only license. The commission gave her the green light to move forward with a notice of intent period for sportsbooks interested in a mobile-only license.
Lesser changes tune on MA sports betting launch timeline
Last week, Sen. Eric Lesser suggested sports betting in Massachusetts could be live by October. It sounds like he is taking a different approach now after the commission preached patience following his comments.
Lesser was asked on NESN‘s “The Ultimate Betting Show” about whether betting could be live by Jan. 1:
“The law includes something kind of technical called an emergency preamble, which means that the law actually goes into effect as soon as the governor signs it. Now there’s a process after that to get the regulations out, get the licenses out. We also included the ability to issue provisional licenses with the understanding that we might want to get this going before the full license structure is figured out.
“So I really hope it’s by then, but it’s now in the gaming commission’s hands.”