The gaming vendor licensing process is underway in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and applicants should be aware of the following:
Pre-Submission Review Encouraged
Recognizing the complexity of ownership structures, organizations and operations of many gaming vendors, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Division of Licensing encourages potential vendor applicants to meet for pre-application discussions on potential entity and individual qualifiers. Such action prompts the designation of qualifiers at the outset of the process and will result in a scope of licensing letter for the potential applicant clearly setting forth the entities and individuals which the MGC Division of Licensing has deemed qualifiers prior to receipt of the application. This scope of licensing letter has several practical impacts:
- Both the MGC Division of Licensing and the applicant have a road map of what the application should include to be complete.
- The MGC staff knows what to expect upon receipt of the application.
- Once qualifiers are identified, the applicant can determine whether to submit disclosure forms or requests for waiver of certain qualifiers.
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 23K, its implementing regulations and the review process established by the MGC to license gaming vendors, qualifying individuals of the gaming vendor applicants must submit a considerable volume of personal information to the MGC, including employment history, criminal record information, education, stock holdings and other financial data. Likewise, as part of the investigatory process established by the MGC, gaming vendor applicants may need to provide confidential or proprietary information to the MGC. For this reason, applicants are advised to take all available precautions to protect any sensitive information.
MGL Chapter 66 (frequently referred to as the Massachusetts Public Records Law) sets forth the parameters by which records (whether hard copy or electronic records) in the possession of a public agency must be made available to any member of the general public. Generally speaking, Chapter 66 establishes the principle that all records should be made public upon request, unless a narrowly-tailored, statutory exemption applies. MGL Chapter 4, §7, cl. 26th contains a list of exemptions to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, which Massachusetts courts have strictly interpreted with certain, very discrete, exceptions.
As a general proposition, the availability of public records in Massachusetts is quite broad and thus, parties providing confidential or sensitive information to a Massachusetts public agency should take steps to identify whether any exemptions apply and identify specific precautions taken by the requesting agency to protect vital corporate or private information. Applicant-specific concerns and inquiries can be addressed in the pre-submission discussions.
Electronic Application Submission
The MGC Division of Licensing is in the process of developing and testing an electronic application submission program.
Status of Gaming Vendor License Application Process while Ballot Question on Gaming Repeal is Pending
As reported in a recent GT Alert on June 24, 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a unanimous decision requiring the Attorney General to certify for the November ballot a petition seeking to prohibit casino and slots gambling and abolish pari-mutuel wagering on simulcast greyhound races in Massachusetts, thereby overturning a previous determination by the Attorney General. As a result of the ruling, and despite substantial investment by the gaming industry, voters in Massachusetts will have the opportunity to undo all gaming initiatives undertaken by the Commonwealth since 2011.
In light of this ruling, gaming vendor license applicants should take note of the following:
- Application for licensure will not be accepted and processed without the appropriate application fee.
- Application fees are non-refundable.
- The application fee for a Gaming Vendor – Primary License is $15,000 for a three-year term.
- The application fee for a Gaming Vendor – Secondary License is $5,000 for a three-year term.
- Once an application is accepted by the MGC, it becomes property of the MGC and may not be withdrawn without permission from the MGC.
- Full investigative reviews are anticipated to commence as expeditiously as possible.
- A temporary gaming vendor licensure procedure is available upon initiation by the gaming licensee.