Encore reaches preliminary deal with Caesars for one of its mobile sports betting licenses

Encore Boston Harbor has reached a “tentative agreement” to turn over one of its mobile sportsbook licenses to Caesars Interactive Entertainment, according to new public records released Tuesday and confirmation from an Everett Casino spokesman.

The agreement is one of the first major deals to be publicly announced as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission works to bolster the state’s brand new sports betting industry. It also shows that some companies will have a chance to circumvent a competitive licensing process if they can get the right arrangement with an already established casino, racecourse or simulcasting facility.

Encore Boston Harbor is in the process of applying for a Category 1 license under the state sports betting statute that, if approved, would allow them to offer in-person betting at their Everett casino and online betting through two individually branded platforms.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesman for Encore Boston Harbor said the company has entered into a “tentative agreement” with Caesars Interactive Entertainment “that Caesars will receive an attached Category 3 license.”

“Such agreements are common in other online gaming markets,” the spokesman said.

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According to public records, the casino plans to use the second mobile betting license granted under state law for its in-house betting app, WynnBET.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment.

Foley Hoag partner Kevin Conroy, who has worked with companies as they go through the Massachusetts sports betting application process, said Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s likely goal is to secure entry into the Bay State sports betting market without having to having to compete for a license.

“For Wynn, this is likely to result in some funding for their additional mobile sports betting licenses and potentially some additional marketing opportunities to come with it,” he said.

Caesars is no stranger to Massachusetts. The company sought a casino license in Massachusetts before eventually scrapping a plan to develop a Boston-area gaming site with the owner of Suffolk Downs.

Caesars then sued the Gambling Commission and its former chairman Stephen Crosby in 2013 over a conflict of interest and favoritism towards Wynn Resorts that would ultimately lead to the construction of Encore Boston Harbor. The lawsuit was later dismissed, a decision upheld by a federal appeals court in 2015.

In a 2013 statement, former commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the lawsuit was “baseless”.

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The deal between Caesars Interactive Entertainment and Encore Boston Harbor was first announced in a series of survey responses sent to the Gambling Commission last month, asking sports betting hopefuls for basic information such as management structure and investor information.

The surveys also asked companies to notify regulators of any business deals made or potential deals with current gaming licensees such as the three state-owned casinos or other sports bettors. A majority of the companies that completed the surveys indicated that they had included an appendix describing these potential or established partnerships.

As part of a public records request, the first two pages of each survey have been released. These documents offered some clues as to the background business taking place in Massachusetts’ burgeoning sports betting industry.

More than 100 pages were made available to MassLive Tuesday afternoon that provide more insight into the negotiations, though many of the documents have been heavily edited by their authors.

A Gambling Commission lawyer said companies that filed surveys are allowed to decide what information is redacted in order to release the documents “as soon as possible”.

American Wagering, Inc., doing business as Caesars Sportsbook, has issued a survey stating that the company would like to operate a sports betting platform and offer a mobile application in the Bay State. However, the section describing potential deals with current gaming licensees or other sports betting applicants is redacted.

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Documents submitted by other companies offered little new information.

BetMGM, the mobile betting platform owned by MGM Resorts International and Entain Holdings, submitted a survey but all attachments were redacted. Plainridge Park Casino’s survey is also heavily edited, including the part outlining potential deals.

Suffolk Sterling Racecourse and Raynham Park, the two simulcasting facilities in Massachusetts, have applied for Category 2 sportsbook licenses, allowing them to conduct in-person betting and online betting through an online platform.

Both companies have to negotiate a deal and rely on an outside company to run their sportsbook.

A Raynham Park lawyer said last week it was “hopefully within a few weeks or less” of naming a sports betting partnership. A section of Raynham Park’s poll that could outline who this sports betting partner might be has been redacted.

Similar documents from Sterling Suffolk Racecourse said the company “has no agreements with any gaming licensee or any sports betting operator”.

“SSR is in the process of identifying one or more partners with or through whom it intends to conduct category two and three sports betting activities,” reads an addendum to its survey.

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The Commonwealth Equine and Agriculture Center is attempting to obtain a license to conduct horse racing at Great Meadowbrook Farm in Hardwick, although the procedure is met with local opposition.

If the license is granted, the organization can apply for similar sports betting licenses to those that Raynham Park and Sterling Suffolk Racecourse are seeking.

In a survey submitted to the Gambling Commission, the Commonwealth Equine and Agriculture Center said it “expects to work with a first class operator if it qualifies for a Category 2 license”.

“There is no agreement with any such operator and no discussions with such an operator are appropriate for disclosure to the Commission,” the company said.

FanDuel’s poll has also been mostly redacted, including the part outlining potential deals.

DraftKings was direct in its response.

“At this time, it is DraftKing’s intention to participate in the competitive selection process for a Category Three license,” according to documents filed by the Boston-based company.