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Massachusetts Gaming Commission discusses next steps on sports betting

Paul Tuthill
This new sports lounge in the MGM Springfield casino is designed to seamlessly incorporate sports betting if it becomes legal in Massachusetts, MGM officials said.

Still no timeline for when legal sports wagering will launch

Now that Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, the regulatory process can begin to take shape.

As it works to decide on more than 200 regulations for the new sports wagering industry, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has invited the operators of the state’s three casinos and two simulcast race tracks to a public roundtable on August 18th to discuss their plans for sports betting.

Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said topics for discussion might include consumer protections, advertising rules, and responsible betting safeguards.

“It will help us frame our discussions to be efficient and productive,” Judd-Stein said.

The new law authorizes the Commission to issue licenses to accept sports bets to the casinos and simulcast parlors and for up to seven mobile platforms. It does not include any deadlines, and Commissioners have tried to tamp down speculation that people might be able to start placing bets during the fall football season.

“We know you are all eager for an exact timeline and development of that is responsibly underway,” Judd-Stein said Thursday in a statement read at the Commission’s meeting.

Because all the sports betting bills proposed on Beacon Hill during the last several years pointed to the Gaming Commission as overseers of the industry, the Commission’s staff has already done about two years’ worth of early legwork, said Judd-Stein.

“The Commission plans to carry out our responsibilities without delay understanding fully that there is much work in front of us that is both complex and of public interest,” she said.

Commissioner Brad Hill said he’s as anxious as anyone to see sports wagering up and running, but he said the Commission won’t be rushed.

“In my comments last week, I think I made it very clear that I don’t want to see the Mass Gaming Commission lower standards of any type during this process,” he said.

During a presentation Thursday, Commission Executive Director Karen Wells suggested as first steps putting out feelers to gauge how many applicants for the mobile betting licenses there might be, working on language for the license applications, and prioritizing regulations to license the vendors that will supply products and services to the sports betting operators.

“As we are seeing across the nation there are supply chain issues and every aspect of procurement, so the sooner we can do this the better,” Wells said.

The Commission plans to staff a new sports wagering division and hire a Chief of Sports Wagering. Wells said the job description will soon be posted on the Commission’s website.

The sports betting law funds the new jobs out of the multi-million dollar license application fees.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.