Massachusetts Regulators Defer Another Sports-Betting Decision Over Mobile Ties

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

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2022 3:42 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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Regulators are finding it tough to separate in-person and online betting in Massachusetts

After another hours-long meeting on Wednesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) opted to defer a decision on a legal sports betting license application 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 complete with stadium seating and a 45-foot viewing wall, but also mobile wagering through two digital apps. One of those for MGM Springfield will be BetMGM, provided BetMGM gets a "Category 3" license.

However, the MGC isn’t scheduled to dive into those “tethered” licenses for mobile sports betting sites such as BetMGM until next week, and commissioners are seeking more information before they issue the Category 1 permits.

Similar sentiments were voiced during a meeting on Tuesday that examined an application for a PENN Entertainment Inc.-operated casino.

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

“By reference we point to our partner BetMGM’s application submission, specifically their marketing plan document and their techniques as used in other jurisdictions,” MGM Springfield's application says about advertising and promotional plans.

That setup didn’t sit right 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, this application is a lot shorter,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said at one point. 

Here we go again?

The latest deferral by the MGC is a bump in the road for legal sports betting in the Bay State. Regulators are eyeing a late January launch for in-person sports betting at casinos and early March for mobile wagering, but the deferrals this week don’t necessarily alter that timeline. 

Another licensing hearing for a Category 1 permit is scheduled for Thursday, when commissioners will examine the application for Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor. The casino is proposing 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-revealed launch date, including by building a brick-and-mortar WynnBET sportsbook. And, like MGM Springfield, it intends to lean heavily on WynnBET for its wagering capabilities, which might prompt another deferral by the MGC. 

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

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