Major Sports Betting Discussion Eyed for Thursday MGC Meeting

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Gaming regulators appear poised to shed significant light Thursday on the process they will use to select the sports betting outfits that will be allowed to operate in Massachusetts and the timeline for getting both in-person and online betting up and running.

The Gaming Commission's agenda for its 10 a.m. Thursday meeting is stacked with sports wagering topics: A discussion and possible vote "for possible emergency adoption" of regulations that lay out the application process for each of the three categories of licenses, presentation of a draft application form, a presentation on the application scoring process the commission could use, more discussions and possible votes on regulations related to sports betting taxes and the vendor licensing process, and a discussion of whether to launch retail and mobile betting at the same time or on different dates.

Commissioners could also take a vote Thursday related to "potential launch dates" for retail in-person betting and online/mobile betting, according to the agenda. While the item is marked for a possible vote on the agenda, that does not always mean that the vote will happen. The commission sometimes indicates a vote on its agenda to keep that option open and then decides to defer action until a later meeting.

The Gaming Commission has said it wants to implement legal sports betting here without unnecessary delay but also without sacrificing its commitment to consumer protection and gaming integrity. But in the nearly two months since Gov. Charlie Baker signed the state's betting law and as eager bettors clamor for action, regulators have run into hurdles that have complicated their efforts.

Late last month, most of the online betting companies that spoke at a commission roundtable said they would be okay with a staggered start in which in-person betting -- which will only be allowed to happen at the casinos, slots parlor and simulcast centers that the Gaming Commission already licenses -- launches first, followed by mobile or online wagering. Commissioners have said they think it makes sense to get retail up and running first.

Regulators have been careful not to offer any projections as to when they think the first legal bet might be able to be placed, but they have said they are mindful that telegraphing their plan will be important to calm antsy bettors and to allow operators to prepare for the one common start date.

Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS

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