Sports betting in Massachusetts could be months away, Gaming Commission indicates

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUGUST 4, 2022 (State House News Service) – Hold your horses, keen sports activities bettors. After months of public stress on the Legislature to legalize sports betting, the Gaming Commission telegraphed Thursday that it’ll take longer for them to make wagering a actuality if or when the governor indicators the invoice than some individuals are anticipating.

“I want the public to understand, as we as commissioners are starting to understand, that this isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight,” Commissioner Brad Hill mentioned. He added, “I’ve seen some quotes in the newspaper from the public and others that they hope to have this thing up and running in a very, very short amount of time. And I just want the public to be clear, at least from my view … this is going to take a little longer than people probably anticipate, and I’m OK with that because I want to do it right.”

Hill didn’t level to any particular feedback, however seemed to be responding to feedback like these from House Speaker Ron Mariano and Sen. Eric Lesser this week, Mariano mentioned he expects the state’s two casinos which have already laid out sportsbooks “will open up almost immediately as soon as the launch” and Lesser mentioned on sports activities radio this week that the fee instructed him “it’ll take about 90 days” for them to start issuing licenses.

“So you’re talking about maybe October that the whole thing could be up and running. So you know, pretty soon, and definitely for the fall football season,” Lesser, who’s operating for statewide workplace, mentioned this week.

Mindful that sports activities betting won’t be authorized until and till Gov. Charlie Baker indicators the invoice that lawmakers despatched him early Monday morning (he has till Thursday, Aug. 11 to behave on it), the Gaming Commission didn’t provide its personal particular timeline for initiating authorized betting in Massachusetts.

But as commissioners talked via the steps they both should or wish to take as they implement sports activities betting, a months-long timeline got here into view. The formal regulatory course of takes two to a few months from begin to end, a fee lawyer mentioned, and most license software processes in different states take between three and 6 months, a fee official spearheading the work to develop a Massachusetts software mentioned.

One of the fee’s first steps will probably be to carry “at the first available date” as soon as Baker indicators the invoice, a roundtable dialogue with its present licensees — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino, and simulcast facilities Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs — to get extra element on their plans for sports activities betting operations and to get their enter because the fee units out to control the brand new exercise.

Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein mentioned she envisions further comparable roundtables “in the weeks and months ahead” with accountable gaming organizations and different events.

A draft software for a cell sports activities wagering license introduced to the fee for dialogue functions on Thursday included a pattern timeline that began with purposes turning into accessible July 9 and the award of licenses happening on the first fee assembly after Dec. 9. Officials confused that the timeline offered was merely a pattern, however the fee will probably be a month behind that pattern schedule by the point betting is legalized right here.

“I can soften the blow that it’s going to take some time with this … we’ve been busy preparing and that does put us in a position that makes us ahead of the game already,” Judd-Stein mentioned, referring to the litany of very detailed points that Executive Director Karen Wells and the fee workers have been occupied with for a number of months as sports activities betting seemed to be an actual chance.

Much of Thursday morning’s assembly was targeted on these points that Wells will need the fee to handle if or when the governor indicators the sports activities betting invoice on his desk, and on the issues that potential operators can do to make the applying course of go smoother for themselves.

“We’re trying to get out to prospective licensees [that] this is generally what we’re going to be asking for so they can start their work and we won’t be holding them up by having them wait for us to sort of figure out what we’re going to ask for,” Wells mentioned. “We give them a general sense, these companies, they know how to compile this information so they can start moving now and then there’ll be less of a delay.”

Wells gave commissioners an thought of the issues on her thoughts: When casinos open a sportsbook, what is taken into account the gaming space? How ought to promotional play provides from sports activities betting operators be handled for tax functions? What kinds will the fee require of operators in search of a license right here? What ranges of knowledge on jobs will probably be required from candidates? What requirements needs to be used to guage cell betting platforms from an IT perspective? How is sports activities betting going to suit into the fee’s personal organizational construction?

“The overarching principle that we’re operating under is that integrity in the implementation and regulation of sports wagering is of critical importance. We had the discussion last week that we only get one shot to get this right, and we intend to do that,” Wells mentioned Thursday. She later added, “There’s interesting work to be done and we’re geared up and ready to proceed if that is the case.”

The integrity of gaming in Massachusetts was talked about repeatedly throughout Thursday’s assembly and commissioners instructed potential operators and bettors that they’ll anticipate the identical diploma of scrutiny from the fee that the operators of the state’s casinos received once they sought licenses a couple of decade in the past.

“While we are on it and we are going to move quickly, we are not going to be lowering our standards in any way,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien mentioned. “And the expectation is, in my view, that the same suitability standards apply … in my view, there’s no reduction in suitability standards as far as I’m concerned, unless we’re directed specifically otherwise.”

Hill mentioned suitability and integrity will probably be on his thoughts, significantly as soon as the fee flushes out precisely how a provision within the sports activities betting invoice that permits for non permanent licensure might work.

“Here in Massachusetts, we have very high standards and I think we have a reputation for that. Whether people like it or don’t like it, we have a reputation. I think it’s a good thing,” he mentioned. “I don’t want to see us lower those standards at any point during the process in terms of suitability, especially when it comes to the temporary licenses.”

An early determination level for commissioners — together with newly-appointed Commissioner Jordan Maynard, who joined the company Monday — was the way to construction a brand new Division of Sports Wagering. Wells and commissioners agreed that one of the best method can be to have a standalone division to deal with sports activities wagering they usually cited recommendations from regulators in different states because the impetus.

“Recommendations made to me convinced me the right thing to do is to have a Division of Sports Wagering, but that division may not be a large division,” Wells mentioned. “I’m seeking for a chief of that division and maybe some employees, but that division will really wok in conjunction with the other divisions of the agency.”

Commissioners had been cautious as their assembly began Thursday to notice usually that sports activities betting continues to be unlawful in Massachusetts and to remind listeners that they had been simply taking pretty restricted steps to be ready to maneuver shortly ought to Baker signal the invoice to legalize sports activities betting.

“While that bill is on the governor’s desk, there is no vehicle to place a legal sports wager in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. So there are nefarious operators who may still seek to gain customers in this time of transition,” Judd-Stein mentioned. “So again, we remind the public that the sports wagering right now is not legal in Massachusetts.”

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