Mass. Gaming Commission Hears from Array of Operators on 2 Main Issues

Mass. Gaming Commission Hears from Array of Operators on 2 Main Issues
By Pat McLoone

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held public meeting No. 395 Thursday at the Gardner Auditorium of the Massachusetts State House.

Nailing down a date for the state to launch mobile Massachusetts sports betting did not happen, again, but no one could say the MGC wasn’t willing to listen.

A parade of 20 or so invited operators was given a five-minute forum to answer in person two major questions:

  1. Assuming any Commission implementation of temporary licensure for untethered Category 3 operators would necessarily include technical testing, suitability, internal controls and other industry-standard requirements, and given the logistical complexities and consumer protection concerns outlined at the Commission meeting on September 15, 2022, would you have an interest in a temporary license and if so, do you have any suggestions on how to address consumer protection concerns in the event that a large number of licensees may be required to dismantle their operations within a short period of time?
  2. What is your position on a staggered launch vs. a simultaneous launch of the different categories of sports wagering operators? (retail vs. mobile, tethered mobile vs. untethered mobile.) Any experience from other jurisdictions and reasoning behind your position should be included in your answer.

Following that, members of the MGC read into the record written answers from interested parties that did not attend.

The meeting, which lasted a little more than 2½ hours, did have a needed light moment when the sound system briefly and randomly started blaring loud music.

Laughs all around but no one offered to Name That Tune!

Searching for Answers

The Massachusetts legislature passed laws to legalize retail and mobile sports in the early hours of Aug. 1.  The legislation was signed into law Aug. 10 by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Since then, the MGC has met frequently to go over the myriad issues needed to be addressed for the state to launch.

A sticking point in the way the law is written is that as many as 30 Massachusetts sports apps could go live with temporary licenses but some would have to shut down within a year since only 15 permanent licenses eventually will be granted. Of that 15, eight will be tied to brick-and-mortar casinos, leaving only seven “untethered” licenses.

None of the speakers were contentious in any way, of course, as they seek the approval of the MGC. But there was a wide array of answers to the two major questions.

Most agreed that the temporary licenses and potential to shut down after a year would cause great confusion. Still, they would be willing to compete for the final licenses.

In questions following the statements, MGC Chairman  Cathy Judd-Stein asked how operators would communicate with customers if they no longer could operate.

“The key would be giving users access to funds and treating them fairly,” said Cory Fox, vice president, product and new market compliance, for FanDuel. “There are ways to address it and we would look to the Commission for guidance on how to refund money.”

 

Regarding the issue of a uniform starting date vs. a staggered approach, Danielle Boyd, vice president for regulatory and compliance for Hard Rock Digital, offered an interesting perspective.

Before joining Hard Rock, Boyd served as an official of the bodies who sorted sports betting in Tennessee and West Virginia. She strongly endorsed the Tennessee method of a universal start date.

Chris Cipolla, senior director for government affairs at DraftKings, agreed.
“Everyone needs to be on equal footing so there are no unfair advantages in the market,” he said.

Whatever gets decided, these operators knows that Massachusetts is a vibrant sports state and want to do business there.

A recent sports betting survey by BetMassachusetts.com revealed that 37% of the state’s sports bettors said they would bet at least weekly and another 38% figured to bet once a month to multiple times a year.

Stay tuned to BetMassachusetts.com for developments on the road to mobile sports betting in the state as well as for Massachusetts betting promos.

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Pat McLoone is a news editor for BetMassachusetts.com, among other duties. Pat spent more than 40 years at the Philadelphia Daily News, where he became managing editor, and later the Philadelphia Inquirer, as managing editor for Sports.

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