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Massachusetts commissioners: legal betting is “going to take some time”


Massachusetts gaming commissioners have warned that the launch of legal sports betting in the state may take longer than expected, as they prepare to create rules for the vertical.

The state legislature passed a bill to permit sports betting last week, in the final hours of the year’s legislative session, ending months of deadlock after the House and Senate had each passed their own bills with major differences between the two.

Under this bill,  any operator of a land-based casino or racetrack in the state may receive a licence, and there will be an additional 7 online-only licences. All of these will carry a $5m licence fee.

Betting on college sports will be permitted, with the exception of matches involving in-state teams. Online betting will be taxed at 20% and retail at 15%.

Marketing, meanwhile, will not face the restrictions that would have been imposed by the Senate bill.

Currently, the bill sits at the desk of governor Charlie Baker. If signed by Baker as expected, the Commission will then be tasked with creating rules that licensees must abide by before the vertical can go live.

Commissioner Bradford Hill said that it was important that the state produces a strong set of regulations, even if this pushes the launch date back.

“If we are going to do this right, we need to take our time a little bit,” he said. “I’ve seen some folks in the newspaper that hope to have this up and running in a very short amount of time, and I just want the public to know that in my view – and this is my view, not necessarily that of the Commission – this is going to take a little bit longer. 

“And I’m okay with that, because I want to do it right. I think the public needs to understand that this is quite a process we need to go through.”

Similarly, commissioner Eileen O’Brien said that while the body would make an effort to act quickly, it would not compromise high standards for speed.

“We will move expeditiously if and when this is signed, but we will do it in a manner that is consistent with our values as a regulatory body, in protecting the commonwealth and maximising the benefit,” she said.

Commissioner Jordan Maynard also agreed that the body should not simply aim to launch legal sports betting as soon as possible.

“To echo what has been said by some of my fellow commissioners, it’s going to take some time to look at this, but we are prepared and we have been looking at it,” he said.