Still No Start Date For Massachusetts Sports Betting

Still No Start Date For Massachusetts Sports Betting
© USA Today

There is no time set for the launch of sports betting in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met for 2 1/2 hours in Boston but didn't attempt to nail down a potential state date or even consider a tentative timeline.

This means Bay State bettors are no closer to understanding when they can start placing legal wagers in person at casino sportsbooks or on mobile apps.

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‘Complex’ Issues Delay Mass. Sports Betting Launch

In August, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill to legalize sports betting. Since then, the five-member commission has attempted to address issues that Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said Thursday 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 issue is the issuance of 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.

Online Bookmakers Support One Start Date

During Thursday’s meeting, the commission heard from representatives of major national online bookmakers that support a universal start date, meaning all mobile apps would go live at the same time.

In Ohio, for instance, all legal sports betting is set to begin on Jan. 1, 2023. Other states have let the first ones to clear the vetting and licensing process go ahead, with others jumping in on staggered days. 

Cory Fox, FanDuel’s vice president of product and new market compliance, said staggered start dates give those that launch first a “significant” advantage. 

Online bookmakers allowed to go first can build brand loyalty by attracting waves of new customers eager to get going, industry experts have noted. 

Fox said FanDuel got an early-start advantage over rival DraftKings in Pennsylvania, while DraftKings received a similar advantage over FanDuel by coming out earlier in Indiana.

Chris Cipolla, DraftKings’ senior director of government affairs, was among those supporting a universal start date.

“DraftKings being part of the first group to go live is of utmost importance to us,” he said.

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Temporary Licenses Create ‘Significant’ Problem

The commission on Thursday also heard from online operators that object to the temporary licensing process. This process could force several online bookmakers to shut down legal mobile apps after six months to a year. Only those seven finally granted a permanent license would be allowed to keep going.

Judd-Stein, the commission chair, said that dismantling temporary mobile apps could lead to the “significant” destabilizing of a new industry in the state — sports betting.

Sports Betting Live in 31 U.S. States

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. Sports betting went live in Kansas on Sept. 1.

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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