Pre-deals between sports betting contenders are underway as kick-off approaches

Companies involved in Massachusetts’ fledgling sports betting market are already beginning to look for deals and partnerships with each other ahead of the planned launch of sports betting early next year, according to new documents released by regulators to MassLive and interviews with key stakeholders .

Public details are still scarce, but a handful of indicators of potential partnerships emerged in surveys that sports betting hopefuls were required to submit to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission last month as part of the sports betting application process and in discussions with industry experts .

The surveys require basic information from those who want to apply for a sports betting license — their type of company, whether they are publicly traded, management structure, investors and information about parent companies.

The surveys also require companies to indicate whether they have submitted an attachment showing current gaming licensees or sports betting applicants with whom they have “an agreement or are in the process of negotiating an agreement.” The majority of the 30 companies that completed the surveys said they had submitted one of the attachments describing these potential or confirmed partnerships.

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While attachments are not yet publicly available, deals are being made in the background between retail operators and online companies. Raynham Park owner Chris Carney said his company is “within two weeks” of partnering with a digital betting platform to operate the track’s only online betting platform

“We are currently looking for a retail and online partner,” Carney said in an interview with MassLive, though he declined to offer specific details before the partnership is announced.

Industry insiders say the attachments of the “association of licensees,” as they are called in the studies, could also show which online companies want to tie up with the state’s three casinos in a bid to cement their place in the brand new Massachusetts sports betting market.

Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainrdige Park Casino have applied for category one licenses under the state’s sports betting law, which, if approved, will allow them to offer in-person betting and online betting through up to two individually branded platforms.

If an online betting company can strike the right deal with a casino, experts say they are more than likely guaranteed access to the Massachusetts market without having to compete with other businesses for one of the seven online betting licenses allowed by state law.

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That’s exactly what state gambling regulators wanted to know from “licensee attachment” — which online companies make deals to operate one of the two digital betting platforms that the state’s three casinos have access to under the sports betting law, according to a commission official .

Experts also doubt whether a betting company could secure one of the seven independent online betting licenses and negotiate a deal to operate a mobile or digital betting platform for one of the casinos, effectively allowing them to run two online sports operations. betting.

But it’s unclear whether regulators will allow that to happen or whether state laws allow for such a scenario. A spokesman for the commission said the gaming commission would have to discuss the matter in public meetings before any decision was made.

In terms of dealmaking, insiders say the most action is happening between the state’s two racetracks and simulcast facilities — Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs — which will have to rely on an outside company to run their sports betting operations, both online and retail.

At least one company has made it clear it wants to negotiate with them.

In its research, FanLogic said it wants to compete for both an online betting license that is not tied to brick-and-mortar operations and to partner with one of the horse racing tracks.

“FanLogic has not identified a tier two partner. However, it is possible that we will have discussions with a second category partner in the near future. As such, FanLogic will apply for both an affiliated and unaffiliated sports betting license in the third category,” the company’s scoping study said.

A representative for FanLogic did not respond to a request for comment.

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But the timetable for when category two licensees will start is still unclear, although the Gambling Commission voted to approve a start in late January for in-person casino betting and early March for online betting.

At a commission hearing in early October, Commission Executive Director Karen Wells said category two applicants were “intentionally” left out of the timelines because regulators needed more information from them.

“We need more information from them about their plans and their partners before we can know where they fit in the timeline,” she said. “So that would be another discussion.”

Rimon Law attorney Steven Eichel, who is representing Raynham Park in the application process, said the timeline for the racetracks depends on when they select a sports betting company to conduct their betting operations.

He said Raynham Park could not start its application until that partnership was firmed up, adding that it was “sort of an entry event into the application process essentially”.

As for what Raynham Park is looking for in a future partner, Eichel said it’s no secret “to say we want a partner that will give us the largest projected market share.”

“But at the same time it is understood that this can only happen with an operating partner who is one of the main players and who has real confidence in both the consumer market and the Gaming Commission,” he said.

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State law requires category two sports betting licensees to make a capital investment of at least $7.5 million. Raynham Park is in the process of building a 30,000 square foot gaming facility near their old racetrack in Bristol County.

Carney said he is spending more than $25 million on the new facility, which he hopes will become a “destination” for sports betting.

“I wanted to stay in Bristol County, I wanted to stay at the dog track because the town and the family have a great relationship and history,” he said. “I didn’t want to try to recreate the wheel with someone I didn’t know. I had a lot of support from the city.”

The Commonwealth Equine and Agriculture Center, better known as Great Meadowbrook Farm, also submitted a survey, although their plan to open a thoroughbred racetrack and sports betting facility in Hardwick was rejected by the town’s Board of Selectmen.

A representative for Suffolk Downs did not respond to a request for comment.

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The potential for deal-making and information sharing worried at least one gaming regulator last week.

In a virtual hearing, Commissioner Jordan Maynard said he was concerned about the information a casino could collect at a retail betting kiosk after it opened in January, which could then be passed on to an unaffiliated online betting operator, “which could would give preference to someone. “

“That’s something I’d like to talk about later as we continue to go through the regulations,” he said. “… But I am concerned about equity issues. I’m concerned about not favoring anyone, and I’ll work with my fellow commissioners, if you’re interested, in finding ways to level the playing field once everyone’s working.”

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