License Language Snafu Causing Massachusetts Sports Betting Stall

Written By Matthew Waters on September 19, 2022
Massachusetts sports betting

Sports betting in Massachusetts is rolling out slower than expected because of a wording mistake in the enabling legislation.

Fixing that issue could be as simple as a quick legislative fix, though. That is what Rep. Dave Muradian, who helped craft the final MA sports betting bill that cleared the legislature in the dead of night, told LSR Friday.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reached out to the legislature about the issue, a spokesperson confirmed to LSR.

Massachusetts sports betting tripped up by bill language

The language around temporary licenses is holding up the rollout of Massachusetts sportsbooks, the MGC confirmed at Thursday’s meeting.

There is no limit on how many temporary licenses are allowed in HB 5164. The only requirements are for the applicant to be a qualified gaming entity – which every online US sportsbook automatically qualifies as – and to pay a $1 million temporary license fee.

The language also says the commission “shall” authorize the applicant to offer sports betting, which leaves no wiggle room.

The commission is holding a roundtable with online operators Thursday. They are asked to answer if they are still interested in a temporary license given the new information.

Muradian: ‘Always the opportunity’ to fix

Luckily for hopeful Massachusetts sports bettors, the state legislature is still in an informal session through Jan. 2, 2023. That could lead to a quick fix.

“There’s always the opportunity for us to revisit it on the legislative side to kind of tidy up any loose ends that need to be reconsidered,” Muradian said. “I would hope that if that is indeed the case that we obviously work on it in a very expeditious manner … we owe it to the Commonwealth residents to be able to put forth this wonderful product as soon as we can.”

There is one catch about the informal session: any legislator can object to a bill and derail it. But Muradian does not expect that to happen for what he called a “fairly easy, somewhat straightforward fix.”

Concern over closing Massachusetts sports betting operators

More than three dozen companies notified the MGC of their interest by an Aug. 31 deadline. Eight of Massachusetts’s 15 online sportsbook licenses are tethered to retail licensees, meaning seven are available for competitive bid.

That could create a scenario where 20 or more sportsbooks with temporary licenses could be shut down once winners are selected, the MGC warned Thursday.

Muradian also voiced concern about what this situation would mean for bettors, especially for those placing futures.

“I’m quite sure that with all of the new information coming to light and making us more aware of some of the potential ramifications, I would assume my colleagues would be taking a look at this and I would hope so,” Muradian said.

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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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