Second casino in the state

Massachusetts regulators approve MGM Springfield's sports betting license

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Massachusetts gaming regulators awarded MGM Springfield a sports betting license Monday, ahead of the state’s market launch in 2023. The permit allows the casino to hold in-person betting sometime early next year, once the industry goes live, and makes it the second gaming property in the Bay State to secure a retail sports gaming license.

Gaming commissioners had delayed a December 7 vote after deciding the casino’s application did not sufficiently answer questions about BetMGM’s technology and compliance with rules in other jurisdictions. MGM’s online gaming brand is also separately seeking a mobile sports betting license tethered to the Springfield casino.

MGM officials have said they plan to offer sports betting at both staff-operated point-of-sale counters and through automated kiosks. At their initial license hearing, the casino said it had already built a $4 million lounge featuring a 45-foot screen to broadcast games, a bar, chairs, an enclosed wagering counter, and room for betting kiosks.

The Springfield casino plans to create seven new full-time positions and six new part-time positions as a result of bringing sports betting to the facility. However, the exact details of the jobs are unclear based on documents submitted to regulators, points out MassLive.

The road to final approval included a series of hurdles MGM had to overcome. In addition to facing delays on a key Massachusetts Gaming Commission vote, the casino missed an application deadline last month. And even during Monday’s successful meeting, regulators focused on a lawsuit the casino faces, and the relationship between the property and BetMGM.

On Monday, Commissioner Nakisha Skinner brought up the point of how MGM Springfield would ultimately maintain control over its operations considering BetMGM would play such a significant role in running the in-person sportsbook. Questions also arose in regard to how gambler data will be shared between the retail betting operation and the online BetMGM platform.

Attorney Jed Nosal, who has been advising the casino through the sports betting licensing process, argued BetMGM is nothing more than a service provider for MGM Springfield’s sports betting operations, which the casino retains full control over, reports MassLive. It’s a similar relationship, he said, to one MGM Springfield has with the company that runs its slot machines.

Regulators also brought renewed attention to a lawsuit MGM Springfield faces from a former employee that alleges the casino provided inaccurate diversity numbers when it was pursuing a casino license, and that she faced discrimination and retaliation. Nosal said the casino could offer an “unequivocal denial of the allegations” and would move to dismiss the legal action once they were served the complaint.

The 5-0 vote in favor of the sports wagering license also came amid concerns among city leaders that the facility has not lived up to the jobs and economic development commitments it made when it sought its original gambling license, reports State House News Service.  

When MGM Springfield opened in 2018, casino officials said the project would support about 3,000 permanent jobs. But in its most recent quarterly report to the Gaming Commission, the Springfield casino said that it had 1,330 employees, including about 100 MGM staff members who work at the Mass Mutual Center.

"It is true that a variety of the amenities that were contemplated in the HCA [host community agreement] and the referendum are not currently being realized to their full potential," Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton, who chairs the council's Casino Oversight Committee, also said in a recent interview with WAMC radio.

Despite the frustration, MGM Springfield has seen its sports betting permit approved, which puts it on the same footing as Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, both of which are expected to be ready to begin taking bets once the Gaming Commission gets more specific about its plan to launch in-person betting in "late January" and awards the operations certificates that will be required for operators.

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