It will take time. That’s the message the Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued Thursday morning about the possible timeline for boosting a sports betting industry in the state.
While a handful of lawmakers had expressed hope for a fall launch date in time for football season, some experts argue it’s better for regulators to take the time needed to create a well-rounded industry. greased while relying on known gaming entities to do so. an early entry into the market.
Princeton Public Affairs Group partner Bill Pascrell, III, said the worst thing Massachusetts regulators can do right now is rush to market and risk cybersecurity, money laundering and player protection.
“Massachusetts regulators are very good at what they do and are very well respected. The worst thing they can do is rush into the market,” Pascrell, III, said in an interview. “Don’t rush into the market just to get into the market and be able to do the first game of the NFL kickoff or week 10 or whatever. You have to make sure it’s bulletproof.”
Both House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Sen. Eric Lesser had hoped for a quick release once, or if Gov. Charlie Baker signs a bill legalizing the practice that lawmakers managed to find a compromise on last minute of this year’s formal legislation.
Mariano previously said he expected the state’s two casinos that have already distributed sportsbooks “will be open almost immediately as soon as the launch,” and Lesser told sports radio this week that the commission he said “it will take about 90 days”. for them to start issuing licenses.
But regulators tempered expectations during a virtual public meeting Thursday by telling the public about the set of regulations and licensing work needed before the green light is finally given, saying the first bets could not be made for months.
At Thursday’s Gaming Commission meeting, Commissioner Brad Hill said he wanted the public to understand that implementing a potential sports betting law Baker has yet to sign into law takes time and won’t happen from one day to the next.
“We have to take our time,” he said. “… I’ve seen some quotes in the paper from the public and others that they hope to have this thing up and running in a very, very short time. And I just want the public to be clear, at least from my point of view, I don’t speak for the entire commission, but from my point of view, this is going to take a little bit longer than people probably anticipate.”
Legislation lawmakers passed this week allows for an accelerated schedule through the use of temporary licenses. It outlines three categories of sports betting entities in Massachusetts, with the first and second covering in-person and mobile betting at the state’s three casinos, live horse racing tracks and simulcast establishments.
These entities have access to a temporary license, at the discretion of the Gaming Commission’s executive director, that allows “the immediate commencement of sports betting operations” for a fee of $1 million, according to the text of the invoice
The gaming commission’s executive director would have to review the application and, if approved, the commission would “authorize the qualified gaming entity to conduct sports betting for a period of 1 year under a temporary license or until a final determination on his operator’s license. the application is made,” according to the text of the bill.
Office of Investigations and Enforcement Director Loretta Lillios said the temporary license provision “should be eliminated.”
“But this can be a tool that we can use in a way that can reach a comfort level that the commission can reach, while also being a tool for timeliness,” Lillios said.
Hill said he was “wrestling with myself” over the temporary license language, saying he doesn’t want to see the commission “lower our standards for anybody, whether it’s a temporary license or a regular license, in terms of suitability”.
“We have very high standards here in Massachusetts. And I think we have a reputation for that, whether people like it or not,” he said. “I don’t want us to lower those standards at any point in the process, in terms of suitability, especially when it comes to temporary licences.
Foley Hoag partner Kevin Conroy, who specializes in sports betting regulations, said he believes the Gaming Commission took a “fairly conservative approach” at Thursday’s meeting.
“And I’m not sure that the conservative approach is consistent with … the bill that was passed,” he said in an interview. “The Legislature intended a minimal review process in order to allow [category one and two applicants] to obtain temporary licenses and start sports betting. And it is clear that the committee believes that a more elaborate review process is needed, which I believe is not necessarily provided for in the bill.”
Martin Lycka, senior vice president of sports betting firm Entain, said sports betting is here to stay in Massachusetts.
“There’s no need to rush it,” he said. “There will be the next football season. And let’s say Massachusetts ends up taking five or six months to pull this off, and then over the course of the next year, there’s going to be a number of other sporting events, needless to say.
Materials from the State House News Service were used in this report.