When Massachusetts lawmakers passed sports betting in the state, the theoretical timeline for sports betting provision put a retail launch in January with an online start pencilled in for March. This timeline featured a period of consideration for online license applications, in which the field would be winnowed down to those believed most suited to hold one of the fifteen licenses available.
It might be time to revisit that timeline, as the deadline for applications has come and gone with just twelve candidates submitting a proposal. That means that there are three licences more than there are applicants, and – presuming that each application meets the necessary standard to be granted a license – everyone who has applied can have one. While no statement has been made by the MGC in regard to this situation, it does raise the question of whether the online licensing process could be shortened and allow a potential earlier launch for Massachusetts online betting.
The relatively small number of applicants is certainly a surprise. Massachusetts is certainly not one of the larger states in the union, and it is a smaller market than many of those still to legalize online betting. So it might be the case that some providers are keeping their powder dry when it comes to opening platforms in betting-friendly states. Nonetheless, the state has always punched above its weight when it comes to sport, with the New England Patriots, as well as Boston’s Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins all finding their homes in the Bay State.
There are a few reasons for the low number of applicants. MaximBet and Fubo had signaled interest in contending for one of the seven licences that are untethered to casinos already operating in the state. Both of those companies have since discontinued their online sportsbook operations. Unibet, for its part, was considered an early possibility but expressed a wish to be more selective in which North American markets it plans to pursue. The companies that have applied for an online-only licence are: FanDuel, Bally, Betway, DraftKings, PointsBet and Jake Paul’s microbetting venture Betr.
Meanwhile, the “tethered licences” will still have open slots for two operators who may wish to pursue online sports betting in future. The MGM Springfield casino, which has two licenses to share with online operators, has chosen to use one of them for BetMGM while leaving the other vacant for now. The state’s two racetracks also declined to apply for an online licence at this point in time. Raynham Park will apply for a license, but does not wish to do so on an accelerated timeline, and has already indicated that it will work with Bet365. Suffolk Downs, meanwhile, has yet to even choose an operator to work with – although it might be expected to choose FanDuel, with whom it already has a horse-racing agreement.
So will Massachusetts now look to bring forward online sports betting, free of the need to decide on who gets the first licences available? That remains to be seen, but bringing it forward would allow online betting on the Super Bowl and potentially most of the NFL’s playoff action.