Massachusetts sports betting launch timeline still not determined
After hearing from many of the nation’s leading operators, Massachusetts regulators have still not determined a launch timeline for the state’s first legal online and retail sportsbooks.
Thursday’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting included testimony from DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM and more than a dozen other sportsbooks. The vast majority testified in favor of a universal launch date, arguing it would be the fairest scenario.
Multiple operators said it would take several months to get their online sports betting options live, meaning that without quick action it appears increasingly unlikely the first mobile books will go live before year’s end.
Most sportsbooks also either supported or were neutral toward a staggered start for retail and online sportsbooks. DraftKings was the most notable operator to oppose a staggered start for retail and online sportsbooks, with company officials testifying that it would create an unfair competitive advantage.
Massachusetts 2022 sports betting law will allow up to 15 online sportsbooks and five retail books. Online sportsbooks are expected to make up more than 90% of the state’s total sports betting handle.
Wynn, MGM and Penn Entertainment are permitted two online sports betting licenses apiece, which they will use for their WynnBet, BetMGM and Barstool Sportsbook, respectively. All three companies could use their second option for another, internal sportsbook, but each will likely partner with a separate operator.
The three companies operate brick-and-mortar gaming properties in the state, Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainride Park. All three are preparing to open retail sportsbooks and have testified they will be able to open their respective in-person books before their online offerings if regulators allow them to do so.
The state’s two simulcast racing facilities Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs, will be permitted one online and retail sportsbook license apiece. Each is expected to partner with third-party sports betting operators.
Massachusetts regulators today could still not give a firm online or retail sports betting launch timeline but it seems increasingly unlikely mobile books launch before year's end; retail books at casinos have a shot of opening in the coming months but it's too early to tell
— Ryan Butler (@ButlerBets) September 22, 2022
Massachusetts regulators can also award up to seven more licenses unaffiliated with the aforementioned entities. More than 30 companies have expressed interest.
The state’s sports betting law could technically require regulators to temporarily license any interested, qualified applicant. Since the law only permits 15 permanent licenses. a dozen or more licensees would have to shut down within a year after earning licensure.
None of the more than 30 states with some form of legal sports betting has enacted a structure that would require some licensed sportsbooks to shut down after launching. Nearly all companies testifying at Thursday’s hearing underscored the dangers of a forced shutdown, noting it would cause confusion in the regulated market and potentially cost companies millions of dollars with no way to recoup their investment.
Gaming regulators acknowledged the potential determents of such a structure and reiterated plans to avoid this situation. Massachusetts lawmakers have also said they may consider amending the law.
Regulators could avoid forced closures by awarding temporary and permanent licenses simultaneously. Though this wouldn’t require some operators to shut down, it would prolong the licensing process.
Massachusetts’ sports betting law was signed into law last month. Most states take between six to nine months to launch books after their legislation was formally passed into law.
Bay State sports betting stakeholders – and bettors – are hoping to have legal betting for as much of the 2022 NFL season as possible. The Super Bowl in February and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March are perenially the nation’s most wagered-upon sporting events.