No Online Betting in Massachusetts Until Land-Based Operators Selected

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Bettors hoping to place online wagers in Massachusetts anytime soon are going to have to wait until the state’s land-based casino industry gets off the ground, says Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby.

The Milford Daily News ran a story today in which Crosby referred to regulation of online gambling there as a “major unknown question” and made it clear that he has “taken the position that Massachusetts shouldn’t do anything in online gambling until our bricks-and-mortar people are selected.”

Massachusetts passed a law two years ago that permits the expansion of brick and mortar casinos, with regulators poised to hand out a maximum of four licenses in early 2014: three for full-scale resort casinos and another for a slots-only parlor.

Crosby said that the slots parlor will likely open sometime next year, but that full-scale casinos won’t come to the Bay State until 2015 or 2016.

Public votes have thinned applicant pool

Local voters in Massachusetts ultimately have the power to nix casino plans via must-win public referendums.

Those votes have proven to be effective at narrowing the options for Massachusetts regulators, who say that a final decision could come on the slots parlor as early as January 10, with the full-scale casino license winners being announced later on in 2014, reportedly in April.

Hard Rock, Mohegan Sun, Suffolk Downs, and Foxwoods have all felt the sting of voter rejection.

Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun may still be in the running, however, with the two companies announcing last week that they plan to team up in an effort to build a casino in the city of Revere.

On November 5, East Boston residents shot down Suffolk Downs’ proposal to build a new casino at the site of their historic racetrack, but voters in Revere – who also had a chance to voice an opinion as the proposed casino also affects that community – went the other way and said yes.

Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun now find themselves in a hurry to redraw plans so that the proposed casino will be entirely situated in Revere. A December 31 application deadline looms.

Suitability checks pose another hurdle

An eleventh hour scramble isn’t anything new for Suffolk Downs.

The racetrack lost its casino partner in late October when Caesars suddenly walked away from Massachusetts after regulators, rumored to be the harshest in the nation, warned that the company was likely to be found unsuitable to operate in the state.

MGM and Wynn, which have proposed casinos for Springfield and Everett, respectively, are the next to take the hot seat. Though both companies chalked up overwhelming wins at the polls over the summer, neither have passed the routine background checks that took Caesars out of the competition.

A hearing is scheduled next week, December 9, for MGM. Wynn’s suitability hearing will be held on December 16.

A glance at the status of all Massachusetts casino applicants can be found here.

- Kim focuses on the intersection of online gambling and state regulatory issues in her work for OnlinePokerReport and a variety of other industry publications.
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