Massachusetts Regulators Defer Another Sports-Betting Decision Over Mobile Ties

After another hours-long meeting Wednesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission opted to delay a decision on an application for a legal sports betting license for the MGM Springfield casino until next week at the earliest.

Last updated: December 7, 2022 3:42 PM ET
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Regulators are finding it difficult to separate in-person and online sports betting in Massachusetts.

After another hours-long meeting Wednesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) opted to postpone a decision on an application for a legal sports betting license for the MGM Springfield casino until next week at the earliest.

The so-called “Category 1” license for the facility would allow it to offer in-person sports betting, which it plans to do with a “first class” lounge with stadium seating and a 45-foot viewing deck, but also mobile betting through two digital apps. One of these for MGM Springfield will be BetMGM, provided BetMGM obtains a “Category 3” licence.

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However, the MGC is not scheduled to dive into those “connected” licenses for mobile sports betting sites such as BetMGM until next week, and commissioners are seeking more information before issuing Category 1 permits.

Similar sentiments were expressed during a meeting Tuesday that examined an application for a casino operated by PENN Entertainment Inc.

Several commissioners noted on Wednesday that MGM Springfield’s app, which it says “intends to offer its sports betting product in close coordination” with BetMGM, is closely related to the mobile bookmaker. Some sections of the MGM Springfield app even refer the reader to the BetMGM app, which won’t be examined in depth until next week.

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“For reference, we point to the submission of our partner BetMGM’s application, specifically its marketing plan document and its techniques as used in other jurisdictions,” says MGM Springfield’s application for advertising and promotion plans.

That setup didn’t sit well with the MGC, which has been very deliberate in its work to launch legal sports betting in the Bay State.

“If you took BetMGM out of this app, this app is a lot shorter,” said commissioner Eileen O’Brien at one point.

Here we go again?

The latest MGC postponement is a bump in the road for legal sports betting in the Bay State. Regulators anticipate a launch in late January for in-person sports betting in casinos and early March for mobile betting, but this week’s postponements don’t necessarily alter that timetable.

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Another permit hearing for a Category 1 permit is scheduled for Thursday, when commissioners will examine Wynn Resorts’ application for Encore Boston Harbor. The casino proposes to use WynnBET and Caesars Sportsbook as its two mobile platform providers.

Encore says it has “invested significantly” in its sports betting operations ahead of the yet-to-be-disclosed launch date, including building a WynnBET sportsbook. And, like MGM Springfield, it intends to lean heavily on WynnBET for its betting capabilities, which could lead to another postponement by MGC.

“Wynn MA, LLC relies on the extensive experience of its affiliates to develop and launch a successful sports betting operation at Encore Boston Harbor,” the casino application says.

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