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Massachusetts Sports Betting to Take Longer Than Some Hope, Regulators Say

Massachusetts Sports Betting to Take Longer Than Some Hope, Regulators Say article feature image
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Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Mac Jones (Patriots)

Massachusetts sports betting “won’t happen overnight,” state regulators warned during a public meeting on Thursday.

Lawmakers passed a bill to legalize online and in-person sports betting in the Commonwealth earlier this week.

Some had expressed optimism that betting could start by the NFL season, but there are numerous hurdles to clear that would make that difficult, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners.

“I’ve seen some quotes in the newspaper that they hope to have this up and running in a very short time,” Commissioner Bradford Hill said. “This is going to take a little longer than people probably anticipate.”

Gov. Charlie Baker still needs to sign the bill (H. 5164) into law. He has 10 days to do so. But the commission — which would oversee the regulatory process — is already laying the groundwork to expedite things.

Before the legislature even passed the bill, regulators shared a draft licensing application outline. On Thursday, Jaclynn Knecht — Executive Assistant to Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein — said the application process would likely take “somewhere between three and six months”.

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Concerns Over Temporary License Standards

Under the bill, regulators may approve entities for temporary licenses while their sports betting applications are still under review. Hill expressed concern over that provision, saying he didn’t think lawmakers went far enough codifying standards of those licenses.

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien concurred.

“While we are on it and want to move quickly, we are not going to be sacrificing our standards in anyway,” O’Brien said. “The exception in my view is that the same suitability standards apply. Maybe the statute is silent on that, and it would require a further regulatory step.”

Cathy Judd-Stein, who chairs the commission, avoided taking a position on most concerns, but warned Bay Staters to be wary of predatory offshore sportsbooks advertising as if sports wagering is legal and live.

“Legalizing this industry doesn’t bring a new form of gaming. It brings sports wagering out of the underground economy where there had been no protections for players,” Judd-Stein said, adding that right now there is way to place a legal wager in the state.

“There are nefarious operators who might take advantage of the situation,” she warned.”

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Commissioners said they’ll mirror some of the best practices regulators in other states have used. They’ll use the same background checking forms used in many other legal states.

“That will make it easier for our applicants and investigators because that is a form used across the nation,” Commissioner Karen Wells said.

Judd-Stein said should Baker sign the bill, the commission will meet again as soon as it can. She invited executives from several of the states casinos to join them, as well.

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