Massachusetts Rejects DraftKings Request To Revisit Sports Betting Launch Timeline

Written By Stephanie Wood on November 1, 2022
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Massachusetts, the home state of DraftKings Sportsbook, denied the company’s request that state gaming regulators take another look at plans for a staggered retail and online sports betting launch in 2023. 

On October 27, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unanimously agreed that it would not reconsider its October 7 decision. The current plan leaves the tentative launch of retail sports betting in late January and online sports betting in early March. 

DraftKings sent a letter to each commissioner over the past several days asking them to revisit the October 7 vote, according MGC Chair Chathy Judd-Stein. 

“I read the letter completely, Judd-Stein said. “I didn’t see any new circumstances or points of clarification we needed to address. So we won’t move forward on this.” She stated that the Boston-based sportsbook didn’t make a strong enough case for why the staggered launch shouldn’t proceed as planned. 

DraftKings Pushes For Simultaneous Retail And Online Launch

The November 21 deadline for applications allows the MGC to proceed with its plans to launch retail sports betting in late January. This would mean Massachusetts sports betting would be live at least two weeks before Super Bowl 2023 on February 12. 

According to the state’s laws, retail sports betting is allowed at three casinos and two simulcast facilities. 

During its October 27 meeting, the MGC decided to pursue a later launch deadline for mobile sports betting. It set the date in early March, which would mean online betting would be live by March Madness 2023. This is two weeks later than the late February mobile launch date proposed by MGC staff in the meeting. 

DraftKings, and other sportsbooks, are eager to see new mobile launches, especially around major sporting events like the Super Bowl. Launching near major events allows the brands to limit advertising spending, as they are able to bringing in new bettors through event advertising rather than a separate launch campaign. 

DraftKings was one of a dozen or more prospective Massachusetts sports betting operators that appeared at a Sept. 22 MGC public hearing that addressed the possibility of a staggered launch.

DraftKings Sr. Director of Legal Affairs Chris Cipolla said at the time that his company believes all prospective Massachusetts sportsbook operators should have “the opportunity to launch on day 1,” both retail and mobile. He asked for a single universal launch date for all prospective operators to work towards, “setting that expectation and allowing them to work towards that, we have found that’s the most efficient way to launch a market.”

No other operators at the Sept. 22 meeting asked for a universal launch for retail and online, said Judd-Stein. Other online operators only requested a universal launch for online sports betting.

“With one clear exception, the online operators did not object to a staggered start provided all online operators launched on the same day, a so-called universal start,” she said. Other commissioners agreed.

Also read: How Illegal Sports Betting Is Crippled By Licensed Sportsbooks

No Plans for Further Launch Review

Commissioner Bradford Hill commented, “I think we’ve really discussed it enough that we don’t need to discuss it again. I think that people are concerned that we might be giving a leg up if we do a staggered launch, but I don’t agree with that.” 

Commissioner Jordan Maynard also agreed that the staggered launch should proceed. However, he said that he is still concerned with what he calls “equity issues” relating to mobile apps tied to retail operators. 

“To be specific, I’m worried about the information that can be gathered at a kiosk at a [retail sportsbook] and be handed off to a [mobile/online sportsbook that’s tied to a retail operator] that could perhaps give someone a leg up,” Maynard explained. 

Operators that have customer data from retail operators would have an easier time planning marketing strategies that would target retail bettors to shift them to a mobile experience. Maynard suggested that these issues would be addressed through further legislation. 

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