MA Gaming Commission Chair Concerned About “Our Inability to Move Forward”

  • Last Week’s MA Gaming Commission Meeting Ends with No Launch-Related Votes
  • Sticking Point: Launching In-Person and Mobile Wagering Simultaneously or Gradually
  • MA Legal Sports Betting Timeline “Might Not Allow for Super Bowl Bets”
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Concerned

Last Week’s MA Gaming Commission Meeting Ends with No Launch-Related Votes

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MCG) met last week for the 6th time since August when Gov. Charlie Baker signed a legal sports betting bill into law and for anyone concerned about a careless rush to launch, rest easy, this group is moving with cautious deliberation.

MGC’s slow crawl is intentional, and they have applied this careful strategy to their mission, which is to “oversee the promulgation of MA’s sports wagering industry,” but at the last meeting Chair Cathy Judd-Stein seemed worried that the process is stalling, saying out loud:

I am very concerned about our decision making and our inability to move forward.

It’s the job of Chair Judd-Stein and commissioners Eileen O’Brien, Bradford R. Hill, Nakisha Skinner, and Jordan Maynard to work out the details regarding the upcoming launch of the legal retail and mobile sports betting markets, and for now they have offered up a temporary timeline.

That timeline has a retail launch happening by February 2023, but the group’s executive director Karen Wells made sure to point out at last week’s MGC meeting that “this is not a definitive timeline, but a tool for discussion. There is no way we can do this any earlier.”

First, though, the MGC must decide whether it wants to launch the mobile and in-person markets together or one at a time.

Both Sides of the CA Sports Betting Issue Have Spent Millions on Advertising

Back in August, we did a piece about the money already invested in advertising this CA sports betting issue called California Has Spent Record $364M on Sports Betting Ballot Measure Advertising and in it we also broke down what each of these initiatives would mean for voters.

The goal of Proposition 26 is to restrict sports betting to the local casinos and four racetracks so that market remains in the hands of the state’s native tribes who currently run the legal gambling action in California, so voters who side with the existing market will perhaps favor this initiative.

Prop 27, on the other hand, would legalize online sports betting which would automatically include outside operators who would be running those mobile sportsbooks, an option that pro sports leagues like the MLB favor since it would mean big profits for those teams.

Those in favor of Prop 27 have spent millions of dollars to get their side of the argument known to voters and meanwhile so have those favoring Prop 26 getting their word out, and both sides still have just over a month to get any last messaging out there.

Sticking Point: Launching In-Person and Mobile Wagering Simultaneously or Gradually

There are two legal sports betting markets readying for launch in Massachusetts – in-person and mobile – and whether they start together or gradually has become a sticking point between the MGC commissioners, with some not willing to risk the fallout from a launching rush job.

The state’s three casinos and two horse racetracks will operate mobile and retail sportsbooks plus there are multiple untethered mobile markets at play, with some commissioners pushing for a digital launch in time for the Super Bowl and others not happy about that preset target date.

Commissioner O’Brien seems to be pushing for a more patient approach not aimed at assigning a predetermined deadline that revolves around a major sporting event like the upcoming Super Bowl in February, saying:

Speed is not the sole measure of performance. The issue is with a date-determined timeline vs. best practices … and we have to think back and see what we’re giving up.

In the over thirty other states that have already legalized sports betting, the regulatory process has proven to take more time than all involved were hoping, but with all those examples to follow, the MGC’s process is likely to benefit, though that is not making it go any quicker.

It must be tempting to work toward giving resident bettors a chance to wager on Super Bowl LVII on February 12, 2023, since it is the biggest generator of sports betting action that exists, and without a MA market to take bets on that game, all that money will end up out of state.

New England bettors have plenty of choices now, with most states there taking legal sports bets, so Super Bowl wagers will be made, and that handle will no doubt break records, a lucrative opportunity that the MGC is most likely considering.

At last week’s MGC meeting, tempers apparently flared which indicates a frustration with the slow process, an irritation probably also felt by MA sports gamblers who are forced to watch the MLB’s postseason and the NFL’s regular season opportunities for wagering slipping right by.

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Mike Lukas

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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]m

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