BOSTON (State House News Service) — The Mass. Gaming Commission is set to face a request Thursday to reconsider its already-fraught staggered launch plan and let both in-person and mobile betting start at the same time. But the ask doesn't come from an eager betting public, it comes from one of the industry's largest players that's based in Boston.
DraftKings sent a letter to the commission two weeks ago asking the commission to "use its broad rulemaking authority to promulgate rules and launch retail and mobile sports wagering at the same time." The commission on Oct. 7 agreed to designate "late January" as the launch date for in-person betting at the state's two casinos and one slots parlor, and to designate "early March" as the launch date for mobile operators.
The commission is expected to discuss the company's request towards the end of what could be a lengthy meeting starting at 10 a.m. Thursday, based on the agenda. The agenda does not contemplate that the five commissioners will vote on the matter Thursday, but it is rife with other sports betting topics.
DraftKings, which previously voiced its opposition to a staggered rollout of legal wagering directly to the commission at a Sept. 22 public roundtable, said in its latest request to regulators that making mobile operators wait to start operations would "artificially limit consumer choice and consumer protections, stunt the state's sports wagering market, and put mobile first operators, such as DraftKings, at a competitive disadvantage compared to others."
"Based on the discussion during the Commission's meeting, it is clear that the timeline decision was made not for policy reasons but, rather, because the Commission believes that it will be a challenge to promulgate regulations in a timely manner," the company wrote in an unsigned letter. "We respectfully request the Commission reconsider, as other states have recently been able to successfully codify regulations for retail and online sports wagering at the same time and launch both verticals simultaneously."
After that Sept. 22 roundtable with potential mobile betting operators, Gaming Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein made clear in response to a reporter's question that there would be no preference given to DraftKings because of its status as a Boston-based company.
"I mentioned DraftKings being Boston based as a courtesy, and he made sure that he understood that there is no preference," she said.
DraftKings was founded in Massachusetts and became a household name in the middle part of the 2010s as daily fantasy sports grew in popularity. The company has more than 1,000 employees at its headquarters on Boylston Street in Boston and operates its sportsbook in 20 states, a company official said last month.
During a panel discussion at Suffolk University's Moakley Breakfast Forum on Wednesday, Commissioner Brad Hill talked about how he and his colleagues were aiming for a "Goldilocks approach" to licensing sports betting companies and mentioned the desire to have competition among operators of different sizes.
"The idea is to make sure that the people that are coming forward, the companies that are coming forward to get those licenses have proven resources. Five million dollars, given the scale of the market, is reasonable," he said, according to a press release from the university, referring to the licensing fee. "At the same time, you want that competition, because if there are monopolies, they might not offer the best product to consumers, who are the people in Massachusetts."
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