Massachusetts Should Not Allow Online-Only Sportsbooks

Two of the three land-based casinos in Massachusetts expressed their view that lawmakers should not allow the sports betting market be flooded by online-only sportsbook operators, ahead of the legalization of the gambling activity in the state.

Casinos Should Hold the Key to Market Entry

Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor pointed out that the future legalization should allow casinos to take in-person and online bets, as well as to partner with up to three online or mobile sportsbooks. The casino’s respective operators, Penn National Gaming and Wynn Resorts, further argued that the presence of online-only sportsbooks would undercut their efforts to establish a “robust brick and mortar gaming industry” in the state.

In a joint letter, Lance George, General Manager at Plainridge and Brian Gullbrants, President at Encore, expressed their view that only businesses which make actual investments, assume legal risk and incur costs should be enfranchised under the upcoming legislation.

“…automatic windfalls to industries or interests which assume no new costs, risks or obligations as a result of this type of expansion are not only harmful to the gaming industry’s interests but even more so to overall public interest.”

Joint letter, Lance George, Brian Gullbrants

Since its opening in 2015, Plainridge Park saw $250 million spent by Penn National on the casino’s slots parlor and another $7 million on other capital projects, while Wynn Resorts invested $2.6 billion to build its state-of-the-art casino resort in Everett.

Despite the expressed opinion by both operators that online-only sportsbooks should not be allowed in the state, the casino operators would consent to one mobile-only license for an operator headquartered in Massachusetts, clearly envisaging Boston-based DraftKings.

Sports Betting Legalization Stuck

The legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts was halted as the Senate refused to pass the House economic development bill which contained legal sports betting, arguing it would be more appropriate for sports betting legalization to be dealt on its own.

To reconcile the differences, the Senate and the House set up a conference committee in August, consisting of 3 House representatives, Aaron Michlewitz, Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Donald Wong, and 3 Senators, Eric Lesser, Michael Rodrigues and Patrick O’Connor, and since then private negotiations for a compromise economic development bill have been taking place.

Delaying the legalization is not a option for both casino operators either, and they warned lawmakers neighbor states would be sapping money from state casinos as they were adopting measures to legalize wagering.

“It is imperative that sports wagering expansion in the Commonwealth be done responsibly, with consideration of the framework in place in the existing 22 states that currently allow for legalized sports betting.”

Joint letter, Lance George, Brian Gullbrants

Both company officials raised concerns that the robust land-based gaming industry emerging in Massachusetts will be put at a serious disadvantage, noting that public interest, jobs and taxes depend on “a sensible regulatory approach”.

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