The Regulatory Roadmap In Three Key Sports-Betting States

On October 4, VIXIO GamblingCompliance hosted its second annual ‘Meet The Regulators’ webinar with chief regulatory officials in three key pending sports-betting states that are expected to add more than $2bn to the U.S. total addressable market within a few years.

Below are five things we learned from the senior regulators charged with overseeing the introduction of legal mobile sports wagering in Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio.

Maryland Going Mobile In 2022

After retail sportsbooks launched in land-based casinos in late 2022, mobile wagering is now finally set to follow as an application process for up to 60 available licenses reaches a crescendo in the coming weeks.

Exactly when mobile betting kicks off will depend on how quickly an independent commission acts on the background reviews of seasoned gaming regulators, but Maryland Lottery & Gaming director John Martin said he was confident the state’s first online sportsbooks will be live before the end of the year.

Steep Learning Curve For Sports-Betting Upstarts

Both Maryland and Ohio are extending participation in their sports-betting markets beyond traditional gaming interests, enabling a variety of sports teams, bar-owners and startup operators to apply for different types of retail and online licenses.

But some of those non-traditional companies are evidently struggling to keep pace with the compliance demands of the highly regulated gaming industry.

Ohio Casino Control Commission executive director Matt Schuler made it clear that his agency will not wait for applicants if they miss key deadlines ahead of the launch of legal sports betting in the Buckeye State on January 1, 2023.

Schuler also amused webinar attendees by sharing a selection of the more naïve questions his agency had received from applicants to date, adding that the results of the Ohio legislature’s “rather large experiment” to open up the sports-betting market to non-traditional operators remain to be seen.

It is a similar story in Maryland, where 30 standalone retail and 60 mobile licenses are available in line with legislative intent to encourage participation by minority- and women-owned businesses.

According to Martin, however, it would not be a surprise if some applicants ultimately baulk at the invasiveness of the rigorous background review process that will be applied for sports betting just as it has been for Maryland’s traditional casino industry.

Massachusetts Mulling Advertising Limits…

With the Massachusetts Gaming Commission mandated by law to establish regulations to prohibit any advertising it deems to be “unacceptable or disruptive to the viewer experience at a sporting event,” commission chair Cathy Judd-Stein made it clear that first-in-the-U.S. limits on advertising volume are on the table.

She told VIXIO webinar attendees that the MGC expects to soon hold a public roundtable to discuss the local, regional and national media markets and what they mean for the ability of regulators to limit the “frequency and intensity” of sports betting ads in the Commonwealth.

“It may well be that our powers and authority are quite limited,” Judd-Stein said, “but that certainly is top of mind.”

… As Advertising Concerns Shared Elsewhere

Although neither Ohio nor Maryland has the same statutory mandate as Massachusetts, both states will still be keeping a close eye on advertising as their mobile sports betting markets launch.

Schuler said Ohio regulators are expecting “100 percent compliance” with their rules that address the content, if not the volume, of sports betting marketing.

That includes a ban on the use of the word “free” in any promotional offers, unless the offer truly is completely free to the consumer. The provision is an important one, Schuler said, because sports betting operators “should say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

Even though there will be no formal limits on the intensity of betting ads, both Schuler and Martin urged the industry to show some self-regulatory restraint in order to mitigate the risk of UK- or European-style restrictions being imposed in the future.

Temporary Licenses Loom Large In Massachusetts

Judd-Stein said the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was fully aware of the industry’s desire to see a clear implementation timeline for the launch of legal sports wagering – similar to Ohio, if not quite Maryland due to that state’s bifurcated licensing regime.

The commission chair hinted that regulators would support a phased launch first of retail sports betting and then later mobile, which the MGC duly endorsed at a public meeting three days after the VIXIO webinar.

One pressing area of regulatory uncertainty highlighted by Judd-Stein are the provisions of Massachusetts’ law that seem to enable an unlimited number of temporary mobile sports betting permits, but only 15 permanent licenses.

The MGC chair said the commission was discussing the possibility of a legislative fix to address the issue, although it could also be resolved without further action by Massachusetts lawmakers.

To access an on-demand recording of VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s ‘Meet The Regulators’ webinar featuring senior officials from Maryland Lottery & Gaming, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Ohio Casino Control Commission, click here.


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