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Massachusetts Sports Betting Timetable: 'Longer Than People Anticipate'

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 5 mins

Massachusetts Sports Betting Timetable: 'Longer Than People Anticipate'

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Massachusetts Gaming Commission member Bradford Hill issued a cautionary warning for would-be Bay State bettors who hope to be wagering in Week 1 of the NFL season.

Don’t bet on it. 

During a regularly-scheduled meeting of the five-member Commission and Executive Director Karen Wells on Thursday, Hill said that the Commonwealth won’t rush through the licensing process because of any artificial deadlines or public pressure. 

"We are going to do this right. And in order for us to do this right, we need to take our time a little bit,” Hill said. “I've seen some quotes in the newspaper from the public and others that they hope to have this up and running in a very, very short amount of time. From my point of view, this is going to take a little longer than people anticipate.

“It doesn't happen overnight," Hill added. 

Up to 225 new rules will have to be enacted to regulate sports betting and that approval process takes between 60 to 90 days. The overall approval process will likely take between 3 and 6 months.

Gov. Charlie Baker has until Aug. 11 to sign the bill that will legalize  Massachusetts sports betting. Once he does, the Commission has full control to regulate, implement, and enforce all aspects of legal sports wagering in Massachusetts. 

Retail sportsbooks, Massachusetts betting apps and land casinos that wish to take sports betting action will be vetted and licensed by the Commission. 

Hill shared a similar sentiment when it comes to temporary licenses. "I don't want to lower our standards for anybody," he said. "Here in Massachusetts, we have very high standards." 

Commissioner Eileen O'Brien agreed, adding: "There's no reduction in suitability standards." 

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Quick Timetable Urged by Legislators

Several key legislators who pushed a compromise bill through a conference committee and onto the floor of the House and Senate Monday morning expect sports betting to begin in the Bay State sometime before or during football season. 

Sen. Michael Rodrigues, one of the six members of the joint House-Senate conference committee that crafted the final bill, said betting could “hopefully” start in time for the NFL season. That's Thursday, Sept. 8, when the Bills travel to the Super Bowl champion Rams to open the 2022-23 season.

“Yeah, I think it will be,” the Westport Democrat said Monday. “Hopefully. You can bet on in-state football teams, so you can bet on the Patriots.”

Sen. Eric Lesser, another member of the conference committee, told 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston "the whole thing could be up and running" by October. He said betting could begin earlier onsite at the casinos if they're granted provisional licenses.  

But other members of the commission and MGC Executive Director Karen Wells agreed with the basic sentiments of Hill in terms of the overall timetable.

“We have been preparing for this,” Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said. “That makes us ahead of the game (but) we won’t compromise the integrity of gaming.”  

The Commission plans to bring in extra investigators to vet all potential license holders on the character, legal, and financial fronts. 

Overview of Massachusetts Sports Betting Law

Once signed into law by Gov. Baker, the bill allows retail sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks and online wagering through betting apps. As many as 15 mobile licenses, with seven available for operators that are not currently connected to a brick-and-mortar establishment, including racetracks.

It will mean around $60 million in annual tax revenue for Massachusetts and up to $80 million in initial licensing fees, which will need to be renewed every five years. 

Here is a breakdown of the key elements of the new law in Massachusetts, officially known as the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act

Category Final Bill
Retail Tax20%
Mobile Tax15%
Est. State Revenue$60M
Minimum Age21
Betting AppsUp to 15
College BettingOut of State*
Credit CardsProhibited from funding accounts
Debit CardsPermitted to fund accounts
Advertising LimitsNone
Licensing Fee$5M for 5 Years

Operators Expected to Include BetMGM, Barstool, DraftKings, WynnBET

Plainridge Park Casino, owned by Penn National Gaming, the MGM Springfield Casino, associated with BetMGM, and Encore Boston Harbor, run by the parent company of WynnBET, as well as current parimutuel license holders and slot operators, will get retail licenses under the new bill once they clear the to-be-determined approval process.

On-site sports bars at Encore and MGM Springfield will be converted into retail sportsbooks. Each of those current gambling license holders will be allowed to partner with up to two mobile operators. 

RELATED: Everything to Know About a Potential BetMGM MA Launch

Penn National owns Barstool Sports, which originated in Greater Boston 20 years ago as a free betting newspaper. Barstool, MGM and Encore officials have said they will all seek mobile licenses. 

Boston-based DraftKings has partnerships with the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. It, too, is a strong favorite to get licensed. Other mobile operators chasing the Massachusetts market will likely include FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, and PointsBet.

RELATED: Everything To Know About a Potential DraftKings MA Launch

Judd-Stein plans to invite current casino and parimutuel license holders - including Penn National, BetMGM, WynnBET, Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park - to meet with the Commission and staff in a public roundtable once the law is signed. There was no schedule set in terms of the Commission's next meeting. 

"More to come, "added Wells. 

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About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.