Massachusetts legal betting faces unusual snag

When Massachusetts passed a bill permitting gambling in the state, there were notes of caution sounded as to when people would be able to place a bet. As yet, the ordnance has not gone live, although hopes remain high that it will be able to get going before much longer. However, this week it emerged that a kink in the legislation may cause some delay in everything being signed off.

The issue comes down to the granting of licenses for casinos and gaming facilities to collaborate with online and mobile betting providers to offer sports betting in the state. Seven full, permanent licenses will, in the fullness of time, be issued in the state, but in order to get things off to a solid start, there has been an allowance for temporary licenses to be granted before a decision is made on the seven permanent ones. Within the legislation, there has not been a limit placed on the number of temp licenses, and this is presenting a significant wrinkle.

Gambling commissioners in the state are concerned with what happens when those licenses expire. As many as 30 facilities are expected to apply for and be granted temporary licenses, and while seven of those would then be upgraded, the remainder would essentially have to stop trading with little warning. The lack of certainty around how and when this would happen, and what repercussions it would have for customers, have presented complications.

Some of the questions that need to be answered include the issue of what will happen to balances that are left in accounts that exist at a sportsbook that needs to shut down. Without a defined date for the end of temporary licenses, there is also the possibility that bets could be made on an event that ends up taking place post-expiry. The possibility that the licenses could stop suddenly has far-reaching consequences which need to be addressed.

While the attendant questions are left hanging, it seems like progress on Massachusetts sports betting will be guarded and slow, and may not be ready before the turn of the year. With that said, there is a full meeting of the commission in the coming weeks, and – if they can get clarity on the issue of transitioning from the temporary state to the permanent – that could remove a lot of the roadblocks to getting sports betting going in MA. For comparison, Kansas commissioners faced significant qualms regarding the launch of betting in their state as recently as mid-August, but these were cleared in a matter of days and betting was launched at the beginning of September.

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