Massachusetts rejects DraftKings’ universal launch date request

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Massachusetts is still on pace for a staggered retail and online sports betting launch after state regulators rejected DraftKings’ universal start date request during a meeting Thursday.

Boston-based DraftKings argued in a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that a two-tiered approach would put the company at a competitive disadvantage. DraftKings was the only operator to argue against the policy.

With the separate retail and online sports betting timelines still in place, regulators are expecting to open in-person books by the upcoming Super Bowl in February and mobile platforms by the 2023 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, the most wagered-upon US sporting events. Regulators have stressed they will prioritize a safe, well-regulated launch ahead of getting platforms up for a specific game.

Regulators have not yet announced an official launch date for retail or online offerings.

Massachusetts is one of the most anticipated legal sports betting markets. The state is far and away the most populated in New England and home to the region’s largest metro area. Once live, Massachusetts expects to have more legal sports betting options than all other New England states combined.

More than two-dozen companies have expressed interest in launching in the state, though there will only be seven licenses available for companies not affiliated with a land-based gaming facility.

BetMGM, WynnBet and Barstool will all launch in the state due to the casino ownership of their parent companies, MGM, Wynn and Penn Entertainment, respectively. All three of these operating companies can also partner with one other sportsbook, but no such deals have yet been announced.

MGM Springfield, Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor and Penn’s Plainridge Park have already prepared physical spaces for retail sportsbooks. All three will be positioned to start taking bets as soon as they receive the green light from regulators.

The state’s brick-and-mortar simulcast racing facilities can also open retail sportsbooks. None have yet announced a third-party operating brand.

Along with the two mobile licenses apiece for the three casinos as well as one online license for the racing venues, there will be seven additional licenses granted by Massachusetts regulators to sportsbooks not partnered with the brick-and-mortar facilities. The competition for these limited licenses could be among the most intense of any state.

DraftKings as well as FanDuel, its fellow daily fantasy sports pioneer-turned-major sportsbook, are two of the likeliest companies to earn licenses. The two sportsbooks are typically the first and second-highest grossing operators in each state they operate and both have the resources and reputation to stand out in the crowded licensing process.

Caesars, which is also among the nation’s leading sportsbooks by handle market share, is another leading contender. PointsBet and Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers are also top candidates.

Several new companies are also pursuing Massachusetts, though it could be difficult to earn licensure with limited or no prior sports betting operating experience.

Fanatics is set to launch its first mobile sportsbooks in Ohio, Maryland and potentially several other states sometime next year. Though the company is investing heavily in its product, it still has given little indication on what the sportsbook will actually look like (or go live), something that could hurt its prospects in the eyes of Massachusetts regulators.

Betr, a micro-betting-focused sportsbook co-founded by Simplebet CEO Joey Levy and social media personality Jake Paul, has also applied. Like the Fanatics sportsbook, Betr also has lofty expansion plans but has not yet taken a bet.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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