No Decision Reached On Massachusetts Sports Betting Start Date, 2023 Launch Likely

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No Decision Reached On Massachusetts Sports Betting Start Date, 2023 Launch Likely
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In an 8-hour meeting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday neglected to vote on a timeline to launch Massachusetts online sportsbooks. The commission went into recess until Friday at noon ET with the expectation that a vote could occur then. The commission is expected to propose launching sports betting in 2023, possibly in time for the Super Bowl in February.

During Thursday's meeting, the five-member commission considered voting in favor of staggering the launch dates, allowing sports wagering to occur first at on-site sportsbooks inside casinos and racetracks. At an undetermined later date, betting would be allowed on mobile apps. At the meeting, the commission was presented with a proposed timeline that would launch legal sports betting In-person at casinos and racetracks in January 2023. 

Under the proposed timeline, the use of mobile apps would begin in February 2023, possibly in time for this season's NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Arizona. Massachusetts betting promos would become available with the launch of online sports betting brands in the state.

The Super Bowl is traditionally the most heavily wagered event in the U.S. However, the commission was unable to agree upon the time needed to receive public input on the timeline and to approve a framework for sports wagering regulations.

Commissioner Wants Wagering To Begin In Time For Super Bowl

Karen Wells, the commission's executive director, presented an "aggressive" timeline at Thursday's public meeting, which was conducted virtually.

The characterization of the timeline as "aggressive" led to concern from Commissioner Nakisha Skinner, who wanted to be certain a  "compressed" timeline is responsible.

Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein told the panel to listen to the timeline presentation rather than focusing on terms such as "aggressive."

Also at Thursday's meeting, Commissioner Jordan Maynard said he was worried there would be no timeline.

"I have to have something specific," he said.

Commissioner Bradford Hill said he wants sports betting to begin, at least at land-based sportsbooks, in time for the Super Bowl, with mobile betting available before the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments begin.

Governor Signs Sports Bill Last Summer

In August, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill to legalize sports betting in the Bay State. Since then, the commission has attempted to address issues that Judd-Stein has said are “complex.”

These issues include whether all bookmakers should go live at the same time or be allowed to launch on staggered days, depending on which ones are approved first.

Another concern is a plan to issue 20 or more temporary mobile app licenses, even though only seven will be licensed permanently. This would require many online bookmakers to dismantle their temporary mobile app and refund bettors on games not yet played. Judd-Stein has said they could undermine the sports betting program's credibility.

Massachusetts Neighbors Have Legal Sports Betting

In Kansas, the latest of 31 states to launch legal sports betting, the first wagers were placed three months after Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, signed sports betting into law. Sports betting is legal in Kansas at casino sportsbooks and on mobile apps.

Sports betting proponents in Kansas wanted the program to go live in time for football season so those interested in college football and NFL betting could begin wagering as soon as possible. Sports betting went live in Kansas on Sept. 1, prior to the start of the NFL regular session.

Sports betting is legal and live in four states that border Massachusetts: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Sports betting is illegal in another bordering state, Vermont.

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