There will be no legal sports betting in Massachusetts until next year.
On Thursday, the MA Gaming Commission presented a potential timeline for launch that would see retail sports betting go live in January 2023 and online MA sports betting go live in February 2023.
“This is not a definitive timeline, but a tool for discussion,” MGC executive director Karen Wells said during Thursday’s meeting.
But commission pushback could send the Massachusetts sports betting timetable out even further.
“There is no way we can do this any earlier,” Wells said.
Difference of opinions
An eight-hour meeting Thursday produced no vote on staggered launch or start dates for retail and mobile. The MA Gaming Commission will reconvene Friday at noon.
Retail sports betting launch before the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, 2023 seems possible. There was talk about an online sports betting launch before the 2023 NCAA Tournament in March, but that is still very much up in the air at this point.
Missing these massive sports betting events would cause the state to lose out on millions in potential revenues. But the commissioners differed in their opinions on a more aggressive launch. Meanwhile, industry frustration continues over a lack of guidelines for operators to work toward.
“I’m very concerned about the rate of our decision-making,” MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein said.
Massachusetts sports betting timeline of events
Legislation to legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on Aug. 10. A sports betting deal was struck by MA legislators in the wee hours on Aug. 1.
Forty-two entities expressed interest in obtaining a MA sports betting license. Complicating matters has been a legislative loophole regarding temporary licenses.
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.
License structure in MA before launch
MA can have up to 15 online sports betting operators.
Retail casinos MGM Springfield (BetMGM), Encore Boston Harbor (WynnBet) and Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook) received two online skins each. Meanwhile, racetracks Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park received one online skin each.
That leaves up to seven “untethered” online MA sports betting licenses. They can be awarded by the MGC following a competitive process.
Why temporary Massachusetts sports betting licenses are a problem
A provision written into the bill that allows temporary licenses has complicated matters. That provision directs the MGC to award a temporary license to a “qualified gaming entity” that pays a $1 million fee, enabling it to operate in the state for up to one year.
The MGC received interest from dozens of entities for the seven licenses, and potentially could have to shut down several of them in 6-12 months.