Right before the NFL season kicks off on September 8, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission plans to huddle with its staff to discuss how the Bay State can expedite its pending sports betting launch.
Recommendations made at that time could determine what action must be handled by state regulation. And what could be conducted outside of the law. In order “to give licensees a little bit more of a time frame.,” MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said at a recent gathering of concerned parties.
The recommendations may also give potential licensees a better idea of when Massachusetts sports betting could launch.
That won’t allow Massachusetts bettors to wager in-state in time for the Bills vs. Rams NFL season opener on Thursday Night Football or even the Patriots’ Week 1 game against the Dolphins that Sunday. But knowing what regulatory action is needed first and what could come later will direct the timeline.
Certain sports betting regulations are required by state law and must be established by the MGC no matter what. The meeting on September 8 will give all stakeholders a clearer picture of what regulations should proceed with first. But not every action may require rules. What is needed, or not needed, is what the MGC hopes to find out next month. Of course, if the state wants everything done by regulation, it could extend the timeline.
Normally, waiting for regulatory approval is a 90-day process. While that has repeatedly been said, the MGC won’t sacrifice gaming integrity in the commonwealth. Also, the MGC chair seemed keenly aware that many people want sports betting up and running as quickly as possible.
Three casinos (Plainridge Park Casino and Track, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor) and two simulcast facilities (Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs) are eligible for Massachusetts retail sports betting licenses under the commonwealth’s 2022 sports betting legislation signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker. All five facilities seemed to be on the same page at the meeting about the need for a ballpark launch date.
A target date will help sports betting retailers compete fairly in the new market.
Mobile sportsbooks will also be licensed under the new law. A separate roundtable meeting with potential mobile licensees will be held soon. The casinos and simulcast facilities are part of the discussion.
Each of the casinos is allowed two mobile apps under the law, with each mobile app licensed separately. Each simulcast facility is eligible for one app each.
Seven mobile sportsbooks not tied to the retail operators are also authorized under the law.
The MGC is still debating whether it will stagger the launch of retail and mobile sports betting or allow retail and mobile to launch simultaneously.