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Gaming Commission Approves First Ever Massachusetts Sports Betting License

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Dec 8, 2022 · 1:39 PM PST

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  • The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has unanimously approved Encore Boston Harbor’s retail sports betting license
  • Encore Boston Harbor has partnered with WynnBET for its retail and online sports betting services
  • The casino’s retail sports betting application did not hinge strongly on WynnBET partnership, which led to approval

Third time’s the charm for Massachusetts sports betting.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has unanimously approved the first ever sports betting license in the commonwealth. The Gaming Commission approved the retail sports betting license application for Encore Boston Harbor casino, which has partnered with WynnBET to run its retail and online sports betting services.

Retail sports betting is set to launch in Massachusetts in late January, early February, in time for Super Bowl LVII.

“This is great for the Commonwealth,” Commissioner Jordan Maynard said after voting in favor of the license.

Encore Harbor’s Application Meets Criteria

It was the commission’s third day in a row of hearing a casino’s retail sports betting application and the first time it felt the application stood on its own merit for approval. The commission chose to defer both Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield’s retail applications until next week in order to gather more information on their sports betting partnerships with Barstool Sportsbook and BetMGM, respectively.

Barstool Sportsbook and BetMGM will undergo hearing’s next week for their tethered Category 3 online sports betting licenses. It’s expected that the retail applications for Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield will also be voted on at this time.

The Commission also had extensive questions about Plainridge Park Casino owner PENN Entertainment’s relationship with Barstool Sports and its founder Dave Portnoy.

So what stood out for the Gaming Commission for Encore Boston Harbor? The Commissioners believed its retail application was able to stand on its own without needing additional information about its retail partnership with WynnBET.

Commissioner Nakisha Skinner had brought up the need for more information on sports betting partnerships for both Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield’s applications earlier in the week, but felt she was comfortable moving forward with a decision on Encore Harbor.

“I didn’t feel like I could make a decision on yesterday’s application without also reviewing BetMGM’s application in entirety. Here, I do feel comfortable moving forward in making a determination despite not having the WynnBET application in front of me,” she said.

WynnBET should be viewed as simply a vendor in Encore Harbor’s application, Commissioner Brad Hill said, an urged his fellow commissioners to move forward with a vote on the issue.

Jacqui Krum, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Encore Boston Harbor, attempted to assuage concerns over Encore Boston Harbor’s retail sports betting partnership with BetMGM. If the casino’s sportsbook ever ran afoul with any regulations or internal controls, it would stand behind its action, not cast responsibility to its vendors.

“If we are fortunate enough or receive a Category 1 sports betting license, we would be the persons to stand behind that, not WynnBET,” she said.

Encore Harbor’s Retail Sportsbook Plans

Earlier in the day, Joe Zarbano, director of sponsorships for Encore Harbor, walked the commissioners through the casino’s sportsbook plans.

The current WynnBET Sports Bar will be converted into the WynnBET Sports Book and be fitted out with 10 sports betting windows and 29 sports betting kiosks. Additionally, parts of the gaming floor, mezzanine levels, and parking garage would be expanded to include the installation of additional sports betting kiosks.

The parking garage will feature an “express sports betting” section where customers could place sports bets from their cars. The commissioners are requiring Encore Boston Harbor to provide more information on security issues for that section.

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