Massachusetts Sports Betting Could Take Longer With Universal Start Date

Massachusetts Sports Betting Could Take Longer With Universal Start Date article feature image

Billie Weiss/Getty Images. Pictured: Gillette Stadium.

Massachusetts regulators met Thursday for the first time since the state officially legalized sports betting.

They declined to give a timeline for first bets, though discussions indicated it may take longer than some had hoped.

“We know you’re all eager for an exact timeline, and development of that is underway," said Cathy Judd-Stein, who chairs the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Under a carveout in the bill (H. 5164) Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law Wednesday, the commission could grant casinos temporary licenses while the rest of the market waits for approval. That would fast-track first bets, though several commissioners expressed concerns with that approach.

All of the Latest Sports Betting Legalization News

Massachusetts Leaning Toward Universal Start Date

The commission may opt instead to license all operators simultaneously, via a universal start date, as states like Ohio have done.

"Ideally you're doing parallel tracks, but you have the ability to get this into the market faster one way rather than the other," Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Eileen O'Brien said.

Retail sportsbooks at Massachusetts casinos are already in place and ready to go once the commission gives the go-ahead.

After the state's three casinos partner with up to two online sportsbooks each, legislation leaves room for seven additional "untethered" online operators and one through a partnership with the former Suffolk Downs racetrack.

The faster option would give the state's three casinos "a leg up on the rest of the market," O'Brien added.

She noted they've already been vetted to offer other forms of gambling and have secured online partnerships.

Casino1st Online Partner2nd Online Partner
Encore Boston HarborWynnBETTBD
MGM SpringfieldBetMGMTBD
Plainridge Park CasinoBarstool SportsbookTBD

"Do we want them to be in a position to be ahead? There's an equity thing," Executive Director Karen Wells said. "Just because we may be able to implement retail faster… that doesn't mean that we shouldn't wait."

Commissioner Bradford Hill, who last week told the public to expect a slower rollout, urged the commission not to sacrifice any vetting procedures if it opts to license operators one by one.

Representatives from each casino and racetrack will field questions from regulators next week at a commission roundtable.

NFL Betting Still Possible

Massachusetts is still expected to beat the eight months it takes on average for a state to start sports betting after legalizing it.

The commission's studied sports betting for several years, gathering information from regulators in other states to prepare for its eventual passage, Judd-Stein said.

"The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has done a great job of getting out ahead of this legislation," said Brandt Iden, head of US government relations at Sportradar. "Their early preparation and advanced work, I believe should lead to a state wide mobile launch sometime in early 2023," Iden said.

Iden alluded to Maryland and Maine, which both legalized before Massachusetts, but are still far off from online betting.

A launch during NFL season is still very much on the table for Massachusetts. The next few commission meetings should determine whether that's this year or next.

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