As Massachusetts works on launching its sports betting market, with more than 40 companies having notified regulators of interest in applying for licenses, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has now urged the Gaming Commission to ensure regulations protect the Lottery. Her push comes as sports betting regulators said this week they are going to take the necessary time to put into place an industry that has “integrity.”
“While lawmakers project that sports wagering will generate $60 million in state revenue each year, only $16.5 million, or 27.5%, will be earmarked for unrestricted local aid,” Goldberg said Thursday, according to the Boston Herald. “By contrast, the Lottery produced approximately $1.1 billion for our cities and towns just last year.”
Goldberg noted that the Lottery plays “a vital role” in generating unrestricted local aid for cities and towns, making it “imperative” to ensure it continues to do so. The Treasurer suggested that the Gaming Commission craft regulations that require sports wagering operator applicants to present a plan that can mitigate impacts on the Lottery prior to receiving a license, and be a partner in both in-person and online cross-promotion.
The regulations would mirror those in place for existing gaming licensees, and the Treasurer notes they have proven “profitable” with some of the state’s casinos, says the cited source. Goldberg is also pushing for the Treasurer’s office and Lottery to be involved in a feasibility study looking into whether retail operations should operate wagering kiosks. Furthermore, she also made a pitch for the Lottery to be available online in an effort to bolster competition.
Goldberg’s petition for the state Gaming Commission to protect the Lottery comes as regulators look to stand up a sports betting industry in Massachusetts nearly a month after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law legalizing the practice. Commissioners have repeatedly said the nascent market will take time to put into place, as they are seeking to build an integrity-first betting landscape.
Addressing public expectations that the industry could get up and running quickly, Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said the goal is to put into place a regulatory structure, review potential operators, and approve an application. The Commission has received thus far more than 40 notifications of interest from companies willing to apply for licenses: regulators had opened the public call in order to gauge interest in mobile betting applications.
“Our process will play out as it would have whenever this law came to the Gaming Commission to regulate, and we will not compromise getting this right for anything,” Judd-Stein said, according to MassLive. “With that said, we also are aware of the importance of timing.”
Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein
At the regulator’s latest meeting, Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said she is eager to see sports betting implemented, but wants the public to understand that there are many issues to consider first. “I want to make sure that we are informed about what it is we are undertaking as an agency, that we are diligent in implementing the statute, that we are upholding the same level of integrity and licensee operations that the commonwealth has come to know in the gaming world,” Skinner said. “That will take some time. We are putting in that time.”
As the Commission works out the best regulatory framework for sports betting, Goldberg has also called for consumer protection regulations that would require operators to adhere to the unclaimed property law, to prohibit businesses from using unclaimed winning and abandoned accounts as revenue, adds the Boston Herald. The funds would instead be designated as unclaimed property, per state law, allowing for enforcement through the Treasurer’s office.
Commissioner Skinner said she was in favor of the Treasurer’s request, and that two other commissioners of the five-member board have also shown their support. At the latest Gaming Commission meeting, a major study of the social and economic impacts of gambling in Massachusetts was also presented: it showed the disparity between state lottery revenue and that expected from sports betting, further supporting Goldberg’s petition.
While Thursday’s reunion was productive in the early crafting of sports betting regulators, residents eager to begin wagering were disappointed to learn that little was said about a specific timeline. The Commission did, however, tackle the question of adopting “emergency regulations” that would allow for a faster process while sacrificing a standard procedure of holding a public comment period before the regulations are put into effect.
Judd-Stein justified the streamlined nature of emergency regulations, reminding residents that there are no legal platforms as of now in Massachusetts, meaning many customers are wagering without protections in place. An emergency regulation was voted on 4-0 in favor with one abstention to begin partnering with two companies that specialize in certifying gambling machines, reports Boston.com.