Massachusetts Gaming Chair Expresses Sports Betting Frustrations

Posted on: October 7, 2022, 11:51h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2022, 12:32h.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) worked all day yesterday, seeking to iron out differences among commissioners and staff regarding the state’s forthcoming sports betting market. But after hours of debate, the gaming agency failed to reach a consensus as to when legal wagering on sports might begin.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission sports betting
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein at a commission meeting on April 4, 2019. Judd-Stein is concerned that differences of opinion on sports betting among commissioners and staff are slowing the path to launch. (Image: Boston Herald)

Cathy Judd-Stein has led the MGC since her January 2019 appointment by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R). She succeeded Stephen Crosby, who resigned amid allegations regarding a potential bias he had with Wynn Resorts for the Boston license. Crosby had served as MGC chair since it formed through the state’s 2011 Expanded Gaming Act.

Judd-Stein has faced two pressing regulatory matters — the state’s lone remaining casino license allocated for the southeastern portion of the state, and Massachusetts’ decision to bring sports betting into the state gaming industry. The latter topic has consumed the MGC since the Massachusetts Legislature and Baker passed sports betting earlier this year.

But nearly two months since Baker made sports betting legal in the commonwealth with his signature, the MGC says there’s still no time line as to when such operations might begin in-person or online.

Chair Frustrated

Judd-Stein said during Thursday’s all-hands sports betting marathon meeting that she’s becoming increasingly concerned with the commissioners’ and staff members’ ability to compromise.

I am very concerned about the rate of our decision-making,” Judd-Stein said as the eight-plus hour meeting neared its anticlimactic end around 6 pm. “I am concerned about our ability to move forward.”

The state expanding gaming by way of sports betting came as no surprise to the MGC. It had been reviewing the emerging gaming sector since May 2018. That’s when the US Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision that returned states the right to determine their own laws and regulations on gambling on sports.

The MGC has the comprehensive task of determining how the commission will field sports betting applications. The state law requires that the process be done in a “diverse, equitable, and inclusive” fashion.

The MGC is also responsible for developing the regulations that will govern sports betting. That includes determining if in-game betting will be allowed, and whether betting on college sports involving Massachusetts universities are permitted.

Super Bowl Launch

Massachusetts sports fans are anxiously awaiting the launch of regulated sportsbooks at the state’s three casinos. The MGC discussed possible target start dates, but failed to vote on a time line and adjourned without any clearer launch goal.

Commissioners considered a staggered launch approach to allow retail sportsbooks at Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park to begin operations in the coming months. Mobile sports betting would debut in mid-2023.

Some commissioners and staffers — including Judd-Stein and Executive Director Karen Wells — expressed a need for swift action. They want to speed things up in order to allow legal sports bets to be placed in time for the Super Bowl in February, or at least by the following month for NCAA March Madness basketball. Others said a deliberate approach is in the state’s best interest.

“If this compressed time line makes sense and it’s responsible, I’m all for it. I just need to understand the rationale for why there is this compressed time line being advanced as opposed to a reasonable time line by which the team can get this done,” said Commissioner Nakisha Skinner.

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