A timeline for legal sports betting launch in MA remains unclear.after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission heard from several operators Thursday during a 2.5-hour meeting.
All the uncertainty means online sports betting operators may not be up and running in the state until 2023. The majority of online Massachusetts sports betting operators prefer a universal MA start date.
With the exception of DraftKings, operators were accepting of a retail sports betting launch before online. The Boston-based company does not have a retail presence in the Commonwealth and would be at a disadvantage against brick-and-mortar shops.
Retail MA sports betting could happen in 2022
At this point, it appears that MA retail sports betting launch has a much better chance than online for 2022.
If the process continues at this deliberate pace, it could potentially keep MA online sports betting operators from a chance to go live during the NFL season. Super Bowl LVII is Feb. 12, 2023. That would mean a significant loss in tax revenue for the Commonwealth.
The MA Gaming Commission has run into several logistical hurdles. The most recent hurdle is a legislative loophole with regard to temporary licenses. It would open the possibility that several temporary-license entities would need to shut down operations in six months to a year’s time.
Operators acknowledged the threat of being shut down as temporary licensees within 6-12 months. Seven permanent licenses will be awarded.
Difficulties temporary licenses pose
Chair Cathy Judd-Stein referred to the temporary licensing issue Thursday as “an inadvertent development in the statute.”
Various operators told the MGC that in that scenario, safeguards would need to be put in place. They would enable customers to be able to open their wallets in order to retrieve funds upon shutdown.
FanDuel noted it would be difficult for operators to make an initial investment in MA to acquire customers only to have to close shop.
Some MA sports betting operators want retail first
Each operator was granted five minutes by the commission to answer a pair of questions. The questions centered on consumer protections via temporary licenses, along with the possibility of a simultaneous versus staggered launch date (retail versus online, and tethered versus untethered online.)
MGM Springfield (BetMGM), Encore Boston Harbor (WynnBet) and Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook), can offer retail sportsbooks. In addition, racetracks Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park, can also offer retail.
Aside from MGM, those operators argued on some form of staggered launch based on category (retail, tethered online, untethered online.)
DraftKings wants everyone to start together
DraftKings argued for a universal date for both retail and online, citing its Boston headquarters and employment of approximately 1,500 employees within the state.
A rep from BetFred said it could take 9-12 months to get its online operation up and running from scratch.
The commission said that doing a competitive process before temporary licensing would likely delay the launch of online sports betting.