Massachusetts Casinos Seek Sports Betting Launch Date to Prep Sportsbook Operations

Massachusetts casinos are hoping the state gaming commission can soon provide a relatively concrete launch date for in-person and online sports betting so the three properties can best ready their operations.

Massachusetts sports betting casino MGC gaming commission
The WynnBet Sports Bar at Encore Boston Harbor is readying to take its first bet. Massachusetts sports betting was recently legalized but isn’t expected to start for several months. (Image: The Boston Globe)

Massachusetts lawmakers, by way of a special joint conference committee, forwarded a sports betting bill to Gov. Charlie Baker (R) just ahead of the legislature’s adjournment for 2022. The governor signed the gaming expansion measure last week.

Though Massachusetts has officially joined more than 30 other states in legalizing gambling on sports, it will be several months until the first legal wager is placed. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) must first finalize the governing conditions that will regulate the expanded gaming. The legislature allocated the expansion for the three casinos, two horse racetracks, and online.

The MGC has been prepping its sports betting laws nearly since May 2018. That’s when the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban that limited such gambling to Nevada. But formally adopting the sports betting regulations and developing, accepting, reviewing, and issuing sports betting applications and licenses won’t be accomplished overnight, the MGC said recently.

Commission Gauges Interest

The MGC met yesterday with the qualifying brick-and-mortar entities to gauge their interest in acquiring sports betting rights. The MGC asked the three casinos, Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park, and two horse racetracks — Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park — to complete “Notice of Intent Regarding License for Sports Wagering” forms.

The MGC says the intent documents are being requested for informational purposes that will assist the commission in understanding the level of interest among the casino and racing industries when it comes to sports betting.

We at the MGC must now work with our current and prospective licensees to set up the requisite operating framework so that sports wagering activity here in the commonwealth is ensured the integrity you expect and the consumer protections you and the sports community deserve,” explained MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein.

The MGC isn’t the only one that has been developing its sports betting plans. Encore Boston and MGM Springfield told the MGC Thursday that they’re almost ready to go once their state-issued sports betting licenses are in hand. Each casino is expected to use its parent company’s sports betting subsidiary, respectively WynnBet and BetMGM.

Time Line Requested

Plainridge Park, the state’s slots-only facility, isn’t quite as prepared for sports betting. North Grounsell, Plainridge’s vice president and general manager, told the MGC that a concrete time line would greatly assist the property in its planning.

One of the things we look for as we begin our preparation is an official launch date. That date is important because it feeds a lot of other decisions operationally that need to be made in terms of when we will start construction, whether or not we will need a temporary location, the initiation of our recruiting efforts, a goal date for equipment delivery, and a multitude of other operational decisions,” Grounsell explained.

Wynn and MGM officials, as well as representatives of the tracks, also expressed interest in the state formalizing a time line, and urged the MGC to allow the licensees to launch in unison — not staggered.

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