Gaming Commission Hosts Preparatory Meetings as Governor Signs Sports Wagering Bill

Foley Hoag LLP

Key Takeaways:

  • Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has signed into law a bill that will allow for sports betting to occur in Massachusetts through a combination of brick-and-mortar facilities and online services, subject to the regulation of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
  • The Gaming Commission has set about promulgating regulations to implement the law, including a competitive licensing application for betting offered by online services.
  • The Gaming Commission is holding a series of roundtables with stakeholders, and is committed to significant regulation related to gaming integrity and consumer protection.
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Since the Legislature passed An Act Regulating Sports Wagering, the Commonwealth has been a hive of activity as Massachusetts ushers in a new era in gaming and aligns with the dozens of other states that have already legalized sports wagering within their borders.

* On August 10, 2022, Governor Baker signed the bill – officially making it law. For more details on the law and the licensing process it creates, please see our client alert, available here.

* Bookending the Governor’s signature, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (“Commission”) hosted two meetings – on August 4, 2022and August 11, 2022 – to kickstart internal preparations and provide a roadmap to industry and consumers as the new law is set to take effect in early November. At these meetings, the MGC:

** Shared a very early draft of its competitive mobile sports wagering application and the evaluation criteria it will use to issue licenses to winning applicants.

** Kicked off a series of sports wagering roundtables with stakeholders.

The key takeaways from both meetings are summarized below:

August 4, 2022 Meeting:

  • The Commission will form a new Sports Wagering Division under the oversight of the Executive Director.
  • The Commission shared a draft mobile sports wagering license application (see pages 6-18 of the meeting materials available here). Although the Executive Director and Commissioners made clear that this draft application would evolve in the coming weeks, it nevertheless provides a wealth of information for prospective mobile sports wagering license applicants because it identifies the types of information that will likely be requested during the application process. The model application and discussions during the meeting also confirm that the application process for mobile sports wagering licenses will be competitive.
  • The Commission has already started developing implementing regulations for the new law, although no specific timeline was identified for promulgating final regulations.
  • The Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau will contract with third-party vendors to perform the suitability reviews required for both operator and occupational licenses. In reflecting on the suitability review process that underpinned the Commission’s casino gaming license process, the Executive Director and Commissioners emphasized that the suitability review process will be a substantial undertaking that could not be performed by Commission staff alone.
  • The Commission will be convening a series of roundtables to solicit comments/ideas from industry and other stakeholders. The first roundtable will invite representatives of the casino gaming licensees (Encore, MGM, Plainridge) and race track licensees (Suffolk Downs, Raynham) to a public meeting/roundtable to explain their plans and expectations for sports wagering.

August 11, 2022 Meeting:

  • The Commission acknowledged the public’s interest in proceeding with sports betting, but reiterated that gaming integrity and consumer protection are paramount and that the Commission will take time to address those concerns before betting is permitted to begin.
  • The Commission will issue a Notice of Intent for Category 3 licensees – that is, the mobile sports betting operators – to gain an understanding of who and how many applicants are likely to be involved with the competitive licensing process.
  • The Commission will develop a schedule for promulgating various regulations surrounding sports betting. The Commission’s goal is to have development of the brick-and-mortar and mobile licensing processes proceed simultaneously, but the Commission also acknowledges that those processes may be completed on separate schedules.
  • The Commission will develop a process for licensing vendors to sports betting licensees in much the same way that it currently licenses casino vendors.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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