Regulators To Establish Timeline For Massachusetts Sportsbooks Thursday

Written By Derek Helling on October 5, 2022
vote commission massachusetts sports betting launch

Gambling regulators could be on the verge of establishing a formal timeline for the introduction of legal Massachusetts sports betting.

Bettors in the Bay State eager to know when they’ll have access to legal sportsbooks could get some answers on Thursday if a vote goes well.

However, other questions like exactly how and where they’ll be able to access those sportsbooks plus which sportsbooks will be available could persist past Thursday. There are other outstanding issues.

Massachusetts sports betting vote on tap

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will hold a vote on launch dates for licensed sportsbooks during its Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting. The vote will include potential go-live dates for both in-person and online gambling.

It’s unclear right now if the Commission favors authorizing separate start dates for retail and online sportsbooks or a universal timeline. Additionally, there are no indications of how much of a gap could exist between online and retail launches should the Commission elect a “retail-first” approach.

A potential benefit of a staggered launch would be retail sportsbooks at Massachusetts casinos and racetracks could get up and running sooner than their online counterparts. That would allow bettors to get their betting slips in earlier, perhaps yet within the current NFL season.

Boston-based DraftKings has argued for a universal start date. Currently, DraftKings does not have a retail presence in the state. Its representatives said that a staggered launch preferring physical sportsbooks would put DraftKings at a competitive disadvantage.

Casino operators have stated they could be ready to start taking in-person bets quickly, though. Thursday’s vote could reveal which path the Commission wants to take.

However, there will still be many unanswered questions after this vote.

Regulators still facing unresolved issues

Commission members are still trying to navigate what they have called a flaw with Massachusetts’ sports betting law. The issue revolves around temporary licenses for online sportsbooks.

The statute currently allows the Commission to grant as many temporary licenses as it likes to any entity that pays the licensing fee and meets other qualifications.

However, those temporary licenses are only good for a year. The statute caps the number of permanent, untethered (not connected to a casino in the state) online licenses at seven.

In theory, then, some temporary licensees would have to stop taking bets in Massachusetts after a year if they don’t land one of those seven permanent licenses.

To date, the Commission has requested the legislature address the issue. Among possible solutions are:

  • Providing a mechanism for temporary licensees to gain permanent approval
  • Expanding the limit on permanent licenses
  • Removing the distinction between permanent and temporary licenses

The Commission might address this issue in its Thursday meeting. That facet of the regulatory landscape is much more muddled.

Photo by AP Photo/Steven Senne
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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