Hold your horses, eager sports bettors.
State officials responsible for licensing and regulating sports betting signaled Thursday that it may take more time for sports betting to become a reality in Massachusetts.
With a bill on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, some advocates have expressed hope that the Bay States will begin betting in time for football season.
However, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Thursday that if the bill becomes law, it could take at least a few months to establish specific rules for sports betting operators. In other states that have already legalized sports betting, the process has sometimes been longer.
“I want people to understand, as we commissioners are beginning to understand, that this is not something that’s going to happen overnight,” said Commissioner Brad Hill. He added, “It’s going to take a little longer than people expect, and I’m fine because I want to do well.”
Several commissioners have said they have been busy planning the legalization of sports betting for months, but the Gaming Commission did not offer its own specific timeline for legal betting to begin in Massachusetts.
The formal regulatory process takes two to three months from start to finish, a commission attorney said, while most licensing processes in other states take three to six months, a commission official said.
However, Chamber President Ron Mariano said he expects the state’s two casinos that have put up sports books “will open almost immediately as soon as they launch.” State Sen. Eric Lesser said on sports radio this week that the commission told him “it’s going to take about 90 days” to start issuing licenses.
“So maybe you’re talking about October, everything could be up and running. So, you know, pretty soon, and definitely by the fall football season,” Lesser said.
If the bill is signed by the governor, one of the commission’s first steps will be to hold a roundtable discussion with existing licensees — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino, and the Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs simulcast centers. to get more details on their plans for sports betting operations and their input as the commission sets out to regulate the new activity.
Chairman Cathy Judd-Stein said she anticipates additional similar roundtables “in the coming weeks and months” with gaming organizations and other interests.
Commissioners told operators and potential gamblers they can expect the same level of scrutiny as when the state’s casino operators applied for licenses about a decade ago.
Commissioners were careful as the meeting began Thursday to regularly note that sports betting is illegal in Massachusetts and to remind the audience that they were taking relatively limited steps to be ready to move quickly should Baker sign a bill to legalize sports betting.
“While this bill is on the governor’s desk, there is no vehicle for legal sports betting in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. So there are unscrupulous operators looking to win over customers during this transition period,” Judd-Stein said. “So, once again, we’re reminding the public that right now, sports betting is not legal in Massachusetts.”
With additional reporting from WBUR’s Nik DeCosta-Klipa.