Massachusetts Regulators To Public: Slow Your Roll! Betting Still Months Away

The post Massachusetts Regulators To Public: Slow Your Roll! Betting Still Months Away appeared first on SportsHandle.

With a legal sports betting bill sitting on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday did what it has been doing for months … getting ahead of the curve.

Even before the legislation is signed into law, the MGC staff has already crafted an online application, created a spreadsheet of 225 potential regulations, and revamped its organizational chart with the intention of having a separate sports betting unit with its own chief.

Despite the early start, MGC officials counseled patience for stakeholders and bettors.

“I want the public to understand that this doesn’t happen overnight,” Commissioner Bradford Hill said during Thursday’s virtual meeting. “We are going to do this right, and in order to do this right, we need to take our time a little bit. I’ve seen some quotes in the newspapers by the public and others that we are going to have this up and running in a very short amount of time, but this is going to take a little longer perhaps than people anticipate.”

Translation? Sports betting won’t launch by the first week of the NFL season. Sometime prior to the Super Bowl, if not later, would be a more reasonable estimate. Whenever it happens, the launch will be one of three nationally in coming months, as both Ohio and Kansas are in the regulatory process. Ohio will launch approved operators “as soon as the ball drops in Times Square” on Jan. 1, 2023, while Kansas must launch by that date, but will likely go sooner.

Hill’s comments were likely in response to comments from Massachusetts Sen. Eric Lesser, who is also running for lieutenant governor. Lesser said on local radio this week, “So you’re talking about maybe October that the whole thing could be up and running. So you know, pretty soon, and definitely for the fall football season.”

Average legal to live: 6 months

In Massachusetts, the uber-organized MGC has been prepping for legal wagering for months in anticipation of a bill. That bill came out of the General Court Monday in an overtime session. In the three days since, politicians and bettors have been flush with enthusiasm, while the MGC is aiming to temper expectations.

Many U.S. jurisdictions go from legal to live in about six months, though there are outliers. Iowa needed only three months, while Tennessee needed 16. When Ohio launches, it will be 13 months after legalization, but in Kansas it will likely take less than six.

Should Baker sign the bill this week, three months out would place a potential launch in Week 9 of the NFL season, and six months out would in the postseason. The Super Bowl is set for Feb. 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Arizona.

“It could take as little as a few months,” said staff member Jaclynn Knecht. “It depends on what you want to be included in the application process. General consensus is that is takes an average of 3-6 months for each jurisdiction.”

Though the MGC has long been ready to start the regulatory process, it is aware that the process is intense and time-consuming. Staff shared with the commissioners issues to be addressed, such as what the technology looks like, where gaming areas will be, and how promotional offers will be treated.

Start with collaboration

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein floated the idea of inviting key stakeholders to roundtable discussions that the public will be able to observe — a strategy used by regulators in Colorado that created a collaborative environment. Judd-Stein suggested starting with representatives from the state’s three casinos — Encore-Boston (WynnBET), MGM-Springfield (BetMGM), and Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook) — and the Suffolk Downs and Raynham racetracks. The MGC also plans to consult directly with stakeholders on each regulation.

How quickly the MGC can move forward with regulations will be determined by what kind of regulations it can implement. Permanent rules must be open for public comment, posted in the Massachusetts Register, and voted on by the commission. Each state can take weeks, and sometimes months.

 

The approved legislation, H 5164, does allow for “emergency” regulations, but MGC staff said it would have to determine if that could apply. If it does, the MGC could propose temporary rules without publishing or public comment. Those rules would be in place for three months, during which public comment and fine-tuning would take place.

Whatever the process, MGC staff and commissioners are prepared to be deliberate.

“The overarching principle that we’re operating under is that integrity in the implementation and regulation of sports wagering is of critical importance,” Executive Director Karen Wells said. “We only get one shot to get this right, and we intend to do that.”

The post Massachusetts Regulators To Public: Slow Your Roll! Betting Still Months Away appeared first on SportsHandle.

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