Background deals between sports competitors are ongoing as launch nears

Companies involved in Massachusetts’ burgeoning sports betting market are beginning to seek deals and partnerships with one another ahead of the planned sports betting launch early next year, according to new documents regulators have provided to MassLive and interviews with key stakeholders .

Public details are still scarce, but a handful of indicators of potential partnerships emerge in surveys sportsbetting hopefuls were required to submit to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission last month as part of the sportsbook application process and interviews with industry experts.

The surveys ask for basic information from those wishing to apply for a sports betting license – their type of company, whether they are publicly traded, management structure, investors and parent company information.

The surveys also ask companies to indicate whether they have submitted an attachment showing current gaming licensees or sports bettors with whom they “have or are in the process of negotiating an agreement.” A majority of the 30 companies that responded to the surveys indicated that they had submitted one of the attachments describing these potential or established partnerships.

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While the attachments are not yet publicly available, deals are being made between retailers and online businesses in the background. Raynham Park owner Chris Carney said his company is naming a partnership with a digital betting platform “within two weeks” to operate the circuit’s only online betting platform

“We’re currently looking for a retail and online partner,” Carney said in an interview with MassLive, but declined to give specific details before announcing the partnership.

Industry insiders say the appendices from the “License Association,” as the polls dub it, could also reveal which online companies are trying to partner with the state’s three casinos to cement their place in the brand new Massachusetts sports betting market .

Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainrdige Park Casino have applied for Tier 1 licenses under the state Sports Betting Act that, if approved, would allow them to offer in-person wagering and online wagering across up to two individually branded platforms.

According to experts, if an online betting company can strike the right deal with a casino, they are more than likely guaranteed entry into the Massachusetts market without having to compete with other companies for any of the seven online betting licenses permitted by state law.

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That’s exactly what state gaming regulators wanted to glean from the “Licensee Annex” – which online companies contract to operate either of the two digital betting platforms to which the three state-owned casinos have access under the Sports Betting Act, according to a commission official.

Experts also questioned 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 it to operate two online sportsbooks.

However, it is unclear if regulators will allow this or if state law allows for such a scenario. A Commission spokesman said the Gambling Commission would have to discuss the issue at public meetings before making a decision.

On the dealmaking front, insiders say most of the action is taking place at the state’s two racecourses and simulcasting facilities – Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs – which have to rely on an outside company to run their sports betting businesses both online and at retail .

At least one company has made it clear that they wish to negotiate with them.

In its survey, FanLogic said it wanted to compete for both an online betting license that isn’t tied to a brick-and-mortar operation and partner with one of the racecourses.

“FanLogic has not identified a partner of the second category. However, we may be in talks with a second tier partner in the near future. Therefore, FanLogic would apply for both a Category 3 wired and wired sportsbook license,” according to the company’s scoping survey.

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

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But the timeline for the launch of Category 2 licensees is still unclear, although the Gambling Commission has voted to authorize a late January launch for in-person betting at casinos and early March for online betting.

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

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

Rimon’s attorney Steven Eichel, who is representing Raynham Park in its application process, said racecourses’ timetable depends on when they select a sportsbook to conduct their betting business.

He said Raynham Park could not begin his bid until that partnership was solidified, adding it was “kind of a gating event to really get substantive in the bid process.”

As for what Raynham Park wants from a future partner, Eichel said it was not a state secret to “say that we want a partner that will give us the largest projected market share”.

“But at the same time, it goes without saying that this can only be done with an operating partner who is a key player and has real credibility both in the consumer market and with the Gambling Commission,” he said.

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State law requires a minimum capital investment of $7.5 million for Category 2 sports betting licensees. Raynham Park is currently building a 30,000 square foot play facility near their old Bristol County racecourse.

Carney said he is spending over $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 in the dog track because the town and family have a great relationship and history,” he said. “I didn’t want to try to replicate the wheel with someone I don’t know. I had great 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 racecourse and sports betting facility in Hardwick was opposed by the city’s Board of Selectmen.

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

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

Speaking at a virtual hearing, Commissioner Jordan Maynard said he was concerned about information a casino might collect at a retail betting kiosk following its launch in January, which could then be passed on to an independent online betting operator “that might give someone a head start would. ”

“That’s something I want to address later as we continue to move through regulations,” he said. “…But I’m concerned about stock issues. I am concerned about tripping someone up and will work with my colleagues if you are interested in finding ways to level the playing field after everyone has operated.”

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