MA regulators agree to test sportsbook affiliates through April 14

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After lengthy debate about the role of affiliates in Massachusetts sports betting, the commissioners of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted Thursday to allow a waiver until April 14 for both CPA and rev-share model marketing deals to take place in the Commonwealth.

The extension allows operators to work with affiliates until the April 14 date, but does not guarantee that the practice will continue after that. The commissioners want to see the impact of affiliates on the marketplace before allowing rev share, CPA, or both to proceed.

The group allowed the testing of the waters for CPA unanimously, while Commissioner Eileen O’Brien was the sole commissioner to vote against the same provision for revenue-share style deals.

“To me, if we did anything, it would be only to do the cost per acquisition model. And then we have the ability to see is it really doing what we wanted it to do, which is driving down the push marketing,” she said. “And so to introduce both, to me, actually loses a research opportunity for us as an agency to see what is the real impact of the method of advertising and affiliates.”

“My job isn’t to make the affiliates money. My job is to maximize the profit and minimize the risk in the Commonwealth,” she added.

While O’Brien saw no upside to the revenue share waiver, Commissioner Nakisha Skinner and Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein worried that limiting the scope of some affiliates and not others could negatively impact smaller operators, affiliates, and minority-owned businesses.

MGC Executive Director Karen Wells polled operators and noted that two operators have no plans to offer affiliates and, “was irrelevant to them.”

“One of them indicated that it would be disruptive to do this now, another indicated that it would be actually helpful to do the waiver, and then a third, although they do use affiliates, they only use two and they said they were neutral,” Wells said about the other feedback.

Several commissioners were particularly swayed by a letter from former Boston Celtic and Gaming Society co-founder Kevin Garnett as well as the comments from the other co-founder, Jaymee Messler, during the affiliate roundtable. Messler stated that the company, which targets women bettors in particular, would be adversely impacted if revenue share deals were not an opportunity.

“We are really gratified that the MGC reversed course today. We were invited to participate because of our unique qualifications and we are proud to be the only diverse small business focused on women that participated in the hearings,” Messler told SBC Americas after the meeting.

The state is still on track for a March 10 online sports betting launch.