Only One MA Sports Betting Application Short Of Unanimous Approval

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MA sports betting

All but one applicant for a standalone online MA sports betting license received unanimous approval Thursday from state regulators.

Betr was the exception, as Commissioner Eileen O’Brien voted against awarding a Massachusetts sports betting license because of responsible gaming concerns over co-founder Jake Paul’s involvement in the company. Betr still passed, 4-1.

Five of the six applicants were awarded untethered MA online sports betting licenses by a 5-0 vote from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission:

“I wish I could say the party can begin. But as we all acknowledge there’s still a lot of hard work,” MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein said. “But today was a good milestone.”

MA sports betting launch timeline

Legal online sports betting in the Commonwealth is set to launch in early March prior to the NCAA Tournament

Barstool, BetMGM, Caesars, Fanatics and WynnBet comprise the rest of the 11 online sportsbooks awarded licenses by state regulators. Bet365, which partnered with Raynham Park, has yet to have a suitability review with the MGC. 

“I’m bullish on these applicants’ ability to provide the Commonwealth a safe forum to engage in this new and exciting form of entertainment,” Commissioner Jordan Maynard said. “I have faith that this will bring bettors back from other jurisdictions. And, more importantly, out of the illegal market and into the legal market.” 

Why O’Brien voted no on Betr

O’Brien, who earlier called herself the “naysayer” of the group, explained why she was the only commissioner to vote no on betr. 

“I was conflicted on this application,” O’Brien said. “I see the merits, the positives and the negatives. But at the end of the day, I have concerns, particularly about the last criterion, in terms of, on balance, whether the overall benefits minimize the harms and risks. 

“I have concerns about the demographic and tying of a sports celebrity to a group that is in that vulnerable age group. I wish we were seeing this applicant a little later on down the road. And so for those reasons I’m ‘nay.’” 

Paul grilled by MA sports betting board

Paul was grilled by state regulators during betr’s individual suitability review over a litany of legal matters. 

O’Brien’s expressed RG concerns about Paul throughout the process. She appeared unsatisfied with Betr’s supplemental materials, saying only that they “checked the box.” 

Betr will need to monitor the celebrity boxer, as he will be watched closely.

Next steps for MA sports betting

In-person sports betting in MA is scheduled for launch on Jan. 31. The MGC will next meet Friday to further discuss sports betting regulations. 

“I didn’t think we could do it in the aggressive timeline that was put forth, and you know I was very vocal about that,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner reiterated in addressing the staff. 

“But that had nothing to do with my impression of any of you or your ability to get the work done. I thought it was just a lot. And I worried about our collective mental and physical health. But you have shined throughout this process.”