Casinos Planning to Move Briskly but No Timeline Set for Mass. Sports Betting

Casinos Planning to Move Briskly but No Timeline Set for Mass. Sports Betting
By Lou Monaco
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Eight days ago, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law House Bill 5164, which legalizes Massachusetts sports betting and designates the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) as the industry’s regulator.

On Thursday, the first of many public meetings and roundtable discussions of current licensees was held by the MGC via a Zoom call of close to 4 ½ hours. The meeting was an effort to learn more about operations, licensing procedures, responsible gaming/advertising and future timelines.

The core of the meeting was at the beginning as each of the state’s five licensed physical facilities was given five minutes to present initial preparations for in-person sports wagering operations.

All five retail operators are already licensed as casinos of off-site betting locations. So, while operators like Caesars Massachusetts continue with plans, no mobile discussion was on the agenda for the meeting.

Five Licensees at a Glance

Here is a brief synopsis of the presentations of the five:

Plainridge Park Casino (Plainville) opened in 2015, Plainridge is currently partnered with Penn Entertainment’s Barstool Sportsbook and will utilize a temporary sportsbook location on the casino floor while constructing a permanent one. Both locations have been identified on the property.

Plainridge General Manager North Grounsell said they are awaiting launch date, licensing and hardware/software requirements in order to determine steps for what to do next.

MGM Springfield has constructed a sportsbook lounge with a cash cage already to go and also has extended a viewing area for customers.

“The physical infrastructure is already complete and ready to go; we are just awaiting requirements,” said Augustine Kim, vice president and executive counsel. “Overall,  
we are very pleased where we are and can probably go live within a 90-day window when given the go-ahead.”

Kim also said self-service kiosks will be only on the casino floor. 
 
Just like MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor (Everett) has a sports betting lounge (Wynn Sports) constructed and ready to go, according to Jacqui Krum, senior vice president and general counsel. They are also currently looking at potential locations on site for self-service kiosks, possibly in the parking garage and ballroom, as current casino space is limited.

Suffolk Downs (East Boston) is working to select a sportsbook partner. “No firm decision has been made yet, but we are well underway in that process and hope to have one in the coming weeks,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer. Tuttle also said the casino is looking at possible real estate locations in Suffolk County.

Raynham Park (Raynham), formerly a greyhound racetrack and now a simulcasting facility, is also searching for a sports betting partner. Attorney Steven Eichel said a new facility will be constructed and will use the existing simulcast area as a temporary space.

When those plans are in place and operational, a recent  BetMassachusetts sports betting survey found that 37% of the state’s sports bettors said they would bet at least weekly and another 2 in 5 (38%) anticipate betting once a month to multiple times a year.

Notice of Intent Due by End of August

On Wednesday, a Notice of Intent form was released on the MGC website regarding licenses for sports wagering in the state. 

The new law identifies three categories of sports wagering licenses, which the MGC may grant to entities meeting specific requirements. The MGC is requesting that any entity interested in obtaining a sports wagering license to submit the form, so the temperature of interest in licenses can come into focus.

Those wishing to submit to start a Massachusetts sports betting app and other wagering license issues have a deadline of Aug. 31 to do so.

The MGC’s next scheduled meeting will be Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. 

Far From Any Definitive Timeline

After a lengthy discussion on responsible gaming and advertising, including voluntary self-exclusion, promo play and advertising/marketing guidelines, timelines looked to be the most important part of today’s agenda, but it just left a lot of unanswered questions.

When the state does go live, BetMassachusetts.com will be your home for the best  MA sportsbook promo codes.

“I’m not anticipating on date X, we are ready to go as we are pretty early in this process,” said Eileen O’Brien, the commissioner of the MGC. “Not envisioning now or in few weeks, that we can go there or give a date. I think continuing communication will be a big part of planning moving forward.”

Karen Wells, the WGC director, stressed the importance of having a structured process in place.

”During the discussion, the five licensees shared their ideas and what their needs would be in moving forward,” Wells said. “I think the critical part of all of this is the regulation process. We need to have some kind of definitive structure that the MGC wants for regulation and what has to be in place prior to the operator to operate. That would put together the timeline to move forward.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein agreed.

“They are looking to us as a commission to give a date of readiness, so they can move forward with their plans to proceed,” Judd-Stein said. “Our next meeting on Sept. 8, we will hope to have some timeline from us that informs them and can be used as a guideline.”

MGC Commissioner Nakisha Skinner summed the lengthy day with this: “It will take us some time and hopefully the licensees will respect that and gives us patience as we move through this process.”

Patience indeed.

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Contributors

Lou Monaco had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene. He also currently is a part-time writer for the high school sports department for NJ Advanced Media (NJ.com) in Iselin, NJ. Lou has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.

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