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No Launch Date Revealed During Massachusetts Online Sports Betting Roundtable

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Sep 22, 2022 · 9:45 AM PDT

Rafael Devers celebrates; Boston Red Sox
Sep 10, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) gestures rounding the bases after hitting a grand slam home run during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held a roundtable with potential online sports betting operators
  • The vast majority of those who spoke at the meeting prefer a universal start date and limited temporary licenses
  • The Commission noted temporary licenses will add more complications to an already complicated process

If potential Massachusetts online sports betting operators have their way, the Commonwealth will allow all online operators to launch on one universal date and will limit the number of temporary licenses.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held a roundtable meeting this morning with a number of heavy hitters in the online sports betting industry, gathering opinions on whether or not Massachusetts should institute a staggered online sports betting launch date and if temporary licenses should be awarded at an uncapped rate.

Despite expectations, no potential online sports betting launch dates were discussed at the meeting. However, based off of feedback from operators and remarks from the commissioners, it’s becoming increasingly likely that Massachusetts online sports betting will not be launched in 2022.

Universal Massachusetts Sports Betting Start Date Preferred

More than 30 sports betting operators submitted notices of intent to the state that they plan to apply for an online sports betting license. Fifteen permanent licenses will be available, with two each for state casinos MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, and one each for Suffolk Downs, and Raynham Park. The remaining seven online licenses will be “untethered” and awarded to qualified applicants by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

The majority of online sports betting operators who hope to secure one of seven untethered online sports betting licenses testified today that a universal start date would be much preferred over a staggered start date in order to ensure competitive fairness.

Cynthia Hays, VP of Compliance for Betfred, noted that a universal start date would ensure that each operator has every opportunity to launch at the same time in the Commonwealth.

“Nobody should start with a competitive advantage for online sports betting,” she said.

While most operators supported a universal start date, several casino and sports betting operator representatives that already have tethered online sports betting licenses pitched the idea of three separate universal start dates for each type of sports betting license.

Jacqui Krum, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for WynnBET and Encore Boston Harbor, said retail sports betting in the Commonwealth should be allowed to launch first. The retail sports betting license holders are already vetted and a start date shouldn’t be held up by the online sports betting process, she said.  Encore Boston Harbor and WynnBET have an existing partnership already and will be guaranteed retail and online sports betting licenses.

She suggested universal start dates for retail sports betting first, then tethered online sports betting operators, and finally untethered online sports betting operators.

This suggestion was not well received by untethered operators. Allowing tethered online sports betting operators the opportunity to launch before untethered licenses would create an unfair advantage in the Massachusetts sports betting landscape. Chris Cipolla, Sr. Director of Government Affairs for DraftKings, said. DraftKings Sportsbook Massachusetts is expected to be one of the first operators made available in the Bay State.

He also suggested that retail sports betting operators also share a universal start date with online sports betting operators.

“Everyone needs to be on equal footing so there are no unfair advantages in the market,” he said.

Temporary Licenses Not Supported

Most online operators, both untethered and tethered, were in agreement that issuing an uncapped number of temporary sports betting licenses would create confusion and create an untenable situation for the state.

The commissioners asked for opinions on temporary licenses after they found an interpretation of the Massachusetts sports betting law that requires the state to award temporary online sports betting licenses to qualified operators that apply for a permanent online sports betting license. If a temporary license holder is not awarded a permanent online sports betting license, they would have to cease operations within one year.

Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Cathy Judd-Stein today said the temporary license issue was an “inadvertent development of the statute.”

An online sports betting launch in a new jurisdiction requires much work, much time, and many resources to ensure success, Cory Fox, Vice President, Product and New Market Compliance, for FanDuel, said at the meeting. Sinking resources into an online sports betting license that may have to be shut down within a year is not a constructive use of time or money for an operator.

“It is not an effective use of resources by the operator, or the Commonwealth, to offer more temporary licenses than permanent ones,” he said.

FanDuel’s initial investment in a state online sports betting launch is designed to pay off after many years, Fox said. It’s difficult to make a consideration on investments if a license may not be permanent after one year.

Interestingly, Cipolla of DraftKings gave one of the few supporting comments for temporary licenses in the state. All operators, he said, deserve the opportunity to have success in the market and parity is key.

The issuance of temporary licenses will ensure parity in the Massachusetts sports betting market, he said.

Commissioners Thankful for Feedback

Judd-Stein concluded the meeting by thanking the operators for their time and noted the feedback received today would help shape the sports betting launch plan moving forward.

Executive Director Karen Wells suggested each operator submit a potential timeline to the commission about when they could launch online sports betting if they receive a license. She also suggested each operator shine light on their plans for the scenario of receiving a temporary license and then having to shut down if not receiving a permanent license.

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