On Monday, December 19, the Massachusetts regulator granted a sports betting license to MGM Springfield, the Springfield-based flagship hotel & casino currently operated by MGM Resorts International, meaning the company has received legal approval to hold in-person betting early next year when the iGaming industry officially debuts in Massachusetts. With this license, the company is officially the second legal sports wagering operator in the state.
Obstacles on the way to obtaining a license:
However, the road to obtaining the license was not easy as MGM Springfield officials faced delays and tough questions from the regulator.
This happened because the company missed an essential filling deadline last month. It also faced a lack of approval two weeks ago as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission moved a key vote to another date.
And although the regulatory body voted unanimously to approve the company’s application for a sports betting license, Monday’s hearing was intense for the MGM officials and lawyers who appeared to present and defend the company’s request.
Problems during the hearing:
Throughout the hearing, the regulator focused only on the problems that the company is currently facing, such as the lawsuit the casino is facing, the disappointment that Springfield politicians made public last week and the relationship between MGM Springfield and BetMGM, also a subsidiary of MGM Resorts International that have been selected to supply sports wagering services for in-person betting.
Problem due to relationship between MGM Springfield and BetMGM:
The regulator’s commissioners postponed a December 7 vote, after ruling that MGM Springfield’s sports betting license application did not answer questions about BetMGM’s technology and compliance with rules in other regions.
These questions were raised because both companies are subsidiaries of the MGM Resorts International and BetMGM separately applied for a sports betting license.
During the hearing, the regulator’s commissioner Nakisha Skinner, said: “I have revisited how MGM Springfield would ultimately mantain control over its operations considering BetMGM would play such a significant role in running the casino’s in-person sportsbook.
“I have a hard time imagining a scenario where we have different concerns about BetMGM as a vendor than we would as a category three [mobile] tethered applicant. I think all of the issues that we’d be concerned about in connection with their category three application, they’re present and very much an issue in their role as a vendor for MGM Springfield.”
In this regard, Jed Nosal, attorney for MGM Springfield, said: “BetMGM is nothing more than a service provider for MGM Springfield’s sports betting operations, which the casino retains full control over. It’s a similar relationship to one MGM Springfield has with the company that runs its slot machines.
“MGM Springfield and MGM Resorts International, and all of the qualifiers that are in front of you, their suitability stands on its own. They are suitable, and the commission can move forward with this application based on that existing suitability of the applicant and its qualifiers. And that’s what’s called for in connection with the review under the regulations, as well as what’s called for in the application.”
Rest of the questions were about patron data-sharing policies between MGM Springfield and BetMGM and after that, the rest of the hearing moved into a brief executive session, which cannot be accessed or viewed by the general public.
The lawsuit issue facing MGM Springfield:
Regulator’s commissioners also brought to light a lawsuit that the company is currently facing from its former employee Chelan Brown, who asserts: “The casino provided inaccurate diversity numbers when it was pursuing a casino license and I faced discrimination and retaliation.”
Regarding this, Nosal said: “MGM Springfield could offer an unequivocal denial of the allegations made by Brown and would move to dismiss the legal action once they were served the complaint.
“There is no evidence, let alone substantial evidence that calls into question MGM Springfield’s suitability for a sports betting license.”
Gus Kim, VP at MGM Springfield, added: “I wanted to categorically state that both of the named defendants, MGM Springfield and [former MGM Springfield President Mike] Mathis unequivocally deny that MGM Springfield filed any falsified reports with MGC or engaged in any unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”
The problem with the publicized disillusionment of Springfield politicians:
Over the past week, Springfield officials have gone public with their concerns about MGM Springfield’s ability to fulfill original promises since the company opened its first casino in Springfield.
In this regard, another regulator’s commissioner Cathy Judd-Stein said: “Regulators had received a number of public comments from members of the Springfield community that touched on the casino’s compliance with an agreement that was made with the city as part of the casino licensing process.
“However, that matter is not directly before the commission today as we review the application which has been submitted for a license under Chapter 23N, the sports wagering law. We may and will, however, keep this issue in mind if it becomes relevant to any of the factors we will evaluate as part of the sports wagering licensure process.”
Layout of the proposed casino:
The proposed casino by MGM Springfield will offer “sports betting at staff-operated point-of-sale counters and through automated kiosks,” according to MGM officials.
Also, they said: “We had already built a $4 million lounge that features a 45-foot screen to broadcast games, a bar, chairs, an enclosed wagering counter, and room for betting kiosks.
“We also plan to create seven new full-time positions and six new part-time positions as a result of bringing sports betting to the facility in Springfield.
“MGM [Springfield], in conjunction with BetMGM, plans to offer a unique combination of betting options, promotions, and offers to create a best-in-class experience for Massachusetts customers.”