Gaming Commission Already Examines Sports Betting Role

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — As legislative negotiations around legalizing sports wagering here stretch into a third week, the Mass. Gaming Commission is taking steps to put regulators and staff in a better position to dive right into the regulation-writing process if or when they are charged with overseeing the activity.

The Gaming Commission cannot start writing regulations around things that remain under negotiation between the House and Senate, like sports betting advertising restrictions, but the agency's staff is hoping to get a bit of a jump on some of the more technical work that it will have if betting is made legal by the end of July.

On Wednesday, Executive Director Karen Wells presented the commission with a series of proposals related to how the Commission might approach the adoption of technical standards in sports wagering regulations, saying that "some kind of direction for the staff to review and potentially tailor these standards as the best practices for Massachusetts would be helpful in our preliminary preparations should sports wagering become legal."

"I think we all appreciate that each piece of legislation contains specific policies and prescriptions that we, as the potential regulator, could only consider and begin to address after a bill were signed into law. But we have been thinking about this and we do believe that we are able to make certain assumptions that are neutral and not tied to any one policy but relevant, regardless of any particular legislative outcome, to legalize sports wagering in the commonwealth," Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said Wednesday. "So where we can act on those assumptions and take preliminary administrative actions, we can perhaps put ourselves in a better position, a stronger position, to implement any sports wagering bill that is signed into law, allowing us to be a nimble and effective regulator."

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The staff recommended that the commission generally rely on technical standards produced by Gaming Labs International, which commissioners agreed with. But a second discussion during Wednesday's meeting -- around the staff recommendation that the commission explore contracting with a third-party vendor for initial technical testing of mobile sports wagering platforms -- revealed that commissioners were not on the same page as the commission's staff.

After commissioners raised concerns about potentially spoiling a future procurement for a technical testing vendor, the commission agreed to table the rest of the discussion until its next meeting. Other options presented at Wednesday's meeting included requiring licensees to contract with an outside vendor to conduct technical testing of their platforms against Massachusetts standards and then provide the results to the commission, hiring new commission personnel to conduct all technical testing in-house, or utilizing a hybrid approach.

Written by Colin Young/SHNS.

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