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Mass. regulators eye staggered sports betting rollout

A customer holds sheets with betting information at the sports book bar at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI on Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A customer holds sheets with betting information at the sports book bar at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI on Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


OK, now it feels like fall.

With yesterday's rain behind us, we have a weekend of sunny — if seasonably crisp — weather ahead, and Boston isn't letting it go to waste. The city is celebrating the last weekend of September (yes, I know, already!) with two open-streets events.

First, the city's third pop-up open streets day will close off over two miles of Dorchester Avenue to cars Saturday for a bunch of pedestrian events and shopping. Then, we have the final Open Newbury Street of the year on Sunday.

Plus, don't miss all the festivals happening around Massachusetts this weekend, as our arts and culture team highlighted here.

Now, to the news: We still don't know when exactly sports betting in Massachusetts will launch, but we do know it's going to be a wait (months, at the very least). And it could be an even longer wait for the most popular form: online and app-based sports betting. Members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Thursday that they're considering a staggered rollout of the industry, allowing in-person sports books at places like casinos to open before mobile wagering goes live.

Commissioners said the two-step approach could at least allow an earlier start for in-person sports betting than if they launched the entire industry at once. The only brick-and-mortar places initially eligible to host sports betting are the state's three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, the MGM in Springfield and the Plainridge Park Casino — plus simulcast centers at Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs. In fact, two of the casinos (Encore and MGM) have already built sports bars on their properties that they plan to swiftly turn into sports books.

During a meeting with several dozen companies hoping to offer online betting in Massachusetts, almost no one voiced opposition to the the idea of a staggered rollout. Nearly all of the company representatives said they'd be OK with the approach, as long as the in-person sports books aren't allowed to launch "tethered" mobile betting platforms before the rest of the industry. Even DraftKings, the one company that spoke out against letting in-person sports books open first, said the higher priority was at least ensuring all mobile platforms have the same start date.

PSA: Another MBTA line closure begins tomorrow. Shuttle buses will replace the Green Line's D branch (from Kenmore all the way out to Riverside) this weekend through next Sunday, Oct. 9. And then they'll do it for another nine days on Oct. 8-16 — and then again Oct. 22-30.

Like the Orange Line shutdown and other previous diversions, T officials say the closure will allow them to accelerate much needed maintenance work. In this case, they'll replace over 6,000 feet of track, upgrade station crossings, and install new collision prevention equipment.

The free shuttles will stop at all D branch stations except for Beaconsfield due to narrow roads. T officials suggest Beaconsfield stations users either hop on the shuttle at Reservoir or use the C branch stop that's just a five-minute walk away.

Meanwhile in the Worcester area, bus riders can continue to keep their wallets in their pockets. Leaders of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority voted yesterday to extend their fare-free program from the end of this year through next June.

The WRTA is one of three transit agencies in the state with systemwide fare-free bus service, along with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority and the Franklin Regional Transit Authority.

The Boston Celtics made it official last night, suspending head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season for reportedly having an improper relationship with a team staff member. The Celtics also did not guarantee Udoka will return, saying that a "decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date."

In the meantime, 34-year-old Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim head coach. For his part, Udoka released a statement apologizing and saying he accepts the suspension.

P.S.— The Massachusetts House advanced a new tax proposed by the City of Boston this week. Do you know what it would affect? Then take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of the local stories we covered this week.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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