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August 18, 2022

Gaming regulators gauging interest in sports betting licenses

A large brick building with columns in front and a gold dome on top with a long staircase leading up to it and an American flag on the left hand side. Photo | Courtesy of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Massachusetts State House

The Gaming Commission would like to know how many and which companies are interested in seeking a sports betting license in Massachusetts and is asking that interested companies get in touch by the end of the month.

As it prepares to launch a newly legal form of gambling under the close eye of the betting public, the Gaming Commission is meeting Thursday morning with five establishments -- Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park -- that can apply for licenses that would allow them to accept both in-person bets at physical sportsbooks and also mobile bets through one or two platform partners.

The companies told the commission Thursday they are largely ready to go and detailed the work they have been doing to prepare for the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts. MGM Springfield, for example, said it could launch betting within 90 days of the regulations being made available, and Encore Boston Harbor said it would start hiring immediately after the commission's timeline for kicking off legal wagering is known.

"One of the things that we, as an operator, look for as we begin our preparation is an official launch date," North Grounsell, vice president and general manager at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, said. "And that date's 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."

The group meeting with the commission Thursday makes up the universe of potential applicants for the Category 1 and Category 2 licenses created in the state's new sports betting law. But the Gaming Commission can also issue up to seven Category 3 licenses that would allow a company to take wagers through a mobile or digital platform, and regulators have said they want to get a better sense of the work ahead of them.

A notice of intent form the commission released Wednesday asks that any company interested in any category of license let the commission know by Aug. 31.

"As the MGC continues to work to regulate and stand-up sports wagering in Massachusetts, the MGC is requesting that any entity interested in obtaining a sports wagering license to submit this Notice of Intent so a landscape of interest in sports wagering licenses can come into focus," the commission said. It added, "Submitting a Notice of Intent does not serve as an application for a sports wagering license and additionally, failure to submit a Notice of Intent does not preclude an entity from applying for a sports wagering license in the future."

The number and scope of responses could inform or influence the commission's decision about how to proceed with the implementation of sports betting in the Bay State as eager bettors clamor for quick action. Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said last week she thinks "there is a real question about who stands up first": the commission's current licensees that can take in-person bets or the mobile-only operators that aren't necessarily connected to companies the commission is already familiar with. 

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