BOSTON (State House News Service) – As the Gaming Commission prepares to evaluate and possibly vote on Massachusetts’s first sports betting licenses this week, regulators got scant public input Monday on applications from the state’s existing slots parlor and casinos.
The 10 a.m. hearing was meant to allow members of the public to weigh in on the three applications for in-person sports betting that commissioners will review in depth — and potentially approve — during meetings later in the week. The so-called Category 1 applications came from the only three entities currently eligible for that level of betting license, which allows for in-person betting and up to two online partnerships: Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.
The only person to speak at the commission hearing, Plainville Select Board Vice Chair Jeff Johnson, told the Gaming Commission that the town values its “outstanding” partnership with the Plainridge Park slots parlor and supports its application to add sports betting to its offerings. Johnson said he could speak for a long time about “what a good neighbor they are every single day” and gave a recent example.
“Just last week, our food bank was approached with a potential donation of 32 frozen turkeys, if we could find a place to store them. Plainridge immediately stepped up and offered freezer space and didn’t bat an eye when the truck pulled up and asked if we could actually take 80 turkeys,” Johnson said. “Their responsiveness — whether it be to taking on 48 extra frozen turkeys on a second’s notice or securely and safely working with a new sports wagering process — will never be called into question.”
Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said Monday that the commission will vote on the applications “only at some point after the respective evaluations over the course of the next few days.” By listing potential votes on the agendas, the commission has given itself the flexibility to vote on each application during their respective hearings this week (Plainridge on Tuesday, MGM on Wednesday and Encore on Thursday), but is not bound by that.
The versions of the applications made available to the public have been heavily redacted by the applicants. Among the information that remains shielded from the public (but not from members of the Gaming Commission) are projections on the total amount of money to be bet, each operator’s anticipated betting revenue, detailed plans for sportsbook security, and more. However, the applications do shed some light on what sports betting could look like in Massachusetts.
Plainridge Park Casino
Plainridge parent company Penn National Gaming has 25 retail sportsbooks in 11 states, according to its application, including Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It has also launched its online Barstool Sportsbook in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Plainridge Park Casino opened in 2015 and currently has a total of 291 employees (200 full-time and 91 part-time). The slot parlor’s betting application says it anticipates adding nine people working hours equal to 5.4 full-time positions) for its sportsbook and 37 people (working hours equal to 25.4 full-time positions) for its sports bar.
“The Sportsbook at Plainridge will provide two options on how/where to place a sports wager. Guests may place sports wagers at either an automated kiosk or a teller/ticket window,” the company wrote in its application. “Odds sheets will be available, and team members will be prepared to answer questions that guests may have regarding how to place a wager.”
The Plainville slots parlor anticipates using a temporary sportsbook space if in-person betting starts in “late January” as the Gaming Commission is eying.
“To maximize revenue for the Commonwealth and ensure a timely launch, a temporary betting counter to be placed in the gaming space next to the Revolution lounge is necessary,” the company wrote. In another section of its application, Plainridge said it “will begin construction of [REDACTED] sports betting area as soon as reasonably practicable.”
MGM Springfield said in its application that its parent company’s sports betting arm, BetMGM, “has an abundance of experience in both mobile and retail sports wagering operations across North America” and “has been thoroughly vetted and issued both sports betting and igaming licenses by 27 regulatory bodies, to date.”
The Springfield casino has built a 4,586-square-foot “first-class Sports Wagering lounge with stadium seating, a 45ft viewing wall, as well as an enclosed wagering counter and space for wagering kiosks” near the entrance/exit at Main Street. There will be five betting windows and four betting kiosks in the sportsbook area, four other betting kiosks will be spread around the main gaming floor and one will be placed in the casino’s high-limits area.
Upon approval for a sports betting license, MGM Springfield said it plans to create seven new full-time positions and six new part-time positions. Including MGM staff members who work at the Mass Mutual Center, MGM Springfield currently has 878 full-time employees, 278 part-time employees and 174 on-call workers, according to its application.
Encore Boston Harbor
In its application, Encore said that its betting arm WynnBET “is an experienced operator with extensive, proven expertise operating online gaming and sports betting in the U.S.” with “well established sports betting operations in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and Louisiana.”
Encore Boston Harbor opened in June 2019 and had 3,479 employees as of the end of September, with
2,394 of them working full-time and 1,085 working part-time. The casino said it anticipates needing about 100 new employees, about 30 percent part-time positions) to accommodate in-person sports betting.
The main WynnBET Sportsbook at Encore has 10 betting windows and 29 betting kiosks to go along with a 10-foot-high, 123-foot-long video wall capable of showing 16 sporting events at a time. Encore is also planning to put 32 kiosks into a “WynnBET Sports Kiosk Room” in a central part of the gaming area. Seven betting kiosks are planned for On Deck, the casino’s sports bar, and more are expected to be placed in the high-limits and VIP area, and at a location near the casino’s poker tables.
“We are anticipating a heavy volume of customers given Massachusetts’ reputation as one of the leading sports meccas in the world. The optimization of kiosk layout is an important aspect of the guest experience and satisfaction,” Encore said in its application. “We have carefully analyzed the different segments of sports wagering guests to determine the appropriate number of kiosks, traffic flow, and segmented playing areas.”
And because Encore is expecting so much traffic from eager bettors, especially when wagering starts without an online component, the Everett casino is also planning to allow sports fans to place their bets in its parking garage at what it is calling the “B1 Express Sportsbook.”
“The B1 Express Sportsbook, to be located in the parking garage, would include twenty-three (23) sports betting kiosks with convenient 15-minute parking. This ‘Express Sportsbook’ will enable guests to place their wager quickly and then watch the game in the comfort of their own home,” the company said in its application.
When they first floated the idea of a parking garage betting area, an Encore official told the Gaming Commission that the area “would obviously be cordoned off with security, appropriate security, and surveillance.”
And to keep lines from stacking up at betting kiosks, Encore is planning to launch a “Bring Your Own Device” program with WynnBET. That will allow casino guests to use their phones to review and finalize bets. Once they have decided what bet they want to place, the bettor would get a QR code that could be scanned at a betting kiosk to automatically pull that bet up to be officially placed.
“This feature will allow guests to have sufficient time to consider their wagers carefully prior to placing them, without the pressure of other guests waiting to use the kiosks,” the company said.