Massachusetts Gaming Commission Stalls Vote on MGM Springfield License

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12/08/2022
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Many Sports Types on Green Grass

Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) officials were left frustrated Wednesday when reviewing a sports betting application for MGM Springfield that contained overlaps to another mobile application.

Wednesday was the second day that members of the commission spent reviewing applications from the state’s three casinos, including MGM Springfield. They met with representatives of the casino in a near-five-hour review session detailing what the property would look like if licensed.

The commission was left discontented during its review, however, after discovering that much of the language used by the casino pertained to a pending review for the BetMGM app, which is hoping to join the market through a partnership with the Springfield property.

Problems with differentiation

The MGC ultimately postponed its vote on licensing for the casino as a result of the frustration. Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said she was “not terribly pleased” with the number of references to the BetMGM mobile sports betting application.

“There are significant references to the BetMGM application, and it will be a few more days until we get to that particular application,” she said. “I’m happy to continue on with the discussion, I think it’s necessary. And in terms of a full evaluation and deliberation on the application, I’m just not prepared to do that today without having the benefit of the review of the BetMGM application.”

Part of Massachusetts’ sports betting law allows retail locations to partner with up to two betting odds providers. In the case of MGM Springfield, it only makes sense that the parent company’s sportsbook, BetMGM, would be the vendor.

However, even though the two are closely linked, the two licenses are separate entities. The casino’s application failed to reflect such a distinction, which is what caused the headaches for regulators.

“It was a little frustrating to see a reference to go see this application that wasn’t actually part of this application,” said commissioner Eileen O’Brien. “I know that is a creature of how we’ve had to structure these hearings, but I just echo some of the questions that I have really aren’t going to be before us until next week.”

Massachusetts legislators agreed on a legal sports betting bill in August—less than a couple of weeks later, Governor Charlie Baker signed off on the idea, adopting it for good. Regulators hope to launch the market in early 2023 but need to resolve issues such as license applications before that day comes.

MGM Springfield prepares for sports betting

Casino officials spent part of the long-winded meeting describing their plans for the establishment, which included a robust betting lounge with a 45-foot television centerpiece. 

The $125,000 square-foot property, which opened in 2018, already features 2,550 slots, 120 table games, a high-roller den, and a 23-table poker room. It also has a sports bar, steakhouse, and other restaurants and amenities.

Jed Nosal, a Womble Bond Dickinson attorney who has assisted the casino during its pursuit of a license, sympathized with the commission’s sentiments and noted that the casino’s application relied on BetMGM’s pending approval. 

MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley attempted to downplay the clear linkage between the two applications. He said that betting odds are the foundation of what BetMGM would provide to the casino, but their system of setting lines would not interfere with the casino’s regular operations nor differ from how BetMGM would treat another partner, thus maintaining autonomy.

Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein disagreed on the basis that the plethora of references in MGM Springfield’s application made to the BetMGM application muddied the waters. She suggested that MGM Springfield come back with an updated application that directly answered the questions, even if it was a copy and paste of what was in the BetMGM application.

The commission was able to fully review the casino’s application despite the hangups.

As the deliberation continues, the casino faces a potential hiring crisis as per the terms of the application, roughly 300 new jobs would be created, and spots will be hard to fill.

15 potential sports betting operators have submitted applications for entry into the Massachusetts market. The general feeling is that the early 2023 deadline coincides with the Super Bowl, the largest annual sports betting attraction in America.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.