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Massachusetts Sports Betting: Betr Exits Bay State, WynnBET Next

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 10 mins

Massachusetts Sports Betting: Betr Exits Bay State, WynnBET Next

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Massachusetts gaming regulators on Wednesday formally approved Betr's plan to cease operations in the state. Betr stopped taking bets at the end of the day on February 16 and has since settled all of its outstanding wagers. 

Betr launched as a start-up in 2022 and is backed by social media star and fighter Jake Paul. Betr was seen as an outlier in the highly-competitive Massachusetts sports betting market because it focused on player-based props and other micro-betting wagers.

"I really appreciated your product and your innovations," Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said during the MGC's meeting on Wednesday. Judd-Stein on Tuesday announced she would be retiring from her position, effective March 21. 

Betr's exit and the planned cessation of operations by WynnBET on Friday leaves just 6 active online operators in the state operating under two different licenses:

Category 1 (Tethered To A Casino) 

Category 3 (Untethered)

Bally Bet holds a Category 3 license that it plans to renew for 2024, but has yet to launch.

This leaves 8 unused online operator licenses available. Books can partner with either a casino operator, a parimutuel operator, or go it alone. License fees are $1 million per year.

WynnBET To Cease Operations Friday

Massachusetts Sports Betting: Betr Exits Bay State, WynnBET Next 1

Meanwhile, WynnBET remains on track to shut down its online operations in Massachusetts on Friday. It submitted detailed cessation plans last week. WynnBET said 75% of its futures wagers have been settled with either a straight cash payout or a fair-market value payout on the outstanding bet. It has contacted all of its patrons with such bets. 

Users of both sites have 30 days after they cease operation to withdraw any remaining funds. Checks will subsequently be mailed to the most recent address on record. 

Encore Boston Harbor Sr. Vice President and General Counsel Jacqui Krum told the MGC earlier this month that the WynnBET retail sportsbook in Everett will be operated and managed by the casino. It will no longer receive any technological or marketing support from WynnBET. 

"It will be a seamless transition," Krum said.  

It is not known if the book will be rebranded. 

"Right now the plan for Encore Boston Harbor is to maybe change the name, or maybe not change the name," Stein said. 

DFS Operators Face Legal Woes

A representative from Betr said the company hopes to someday return to Massachusetts. The company has opted to focus its resources launching sports betting elsewhere. It is also one of three daily fantasy operators, along with Underdog Sports and Prize Picks, that have landed in the cross-hairs of both the MGC and the State Attorney General's office. 

"We would like to explore civil enforcement in this area to see if it can be effective,” first assistant AG Pat Moore told the MGC last week. 

Those companies offer "pick'em" fantasy games that their competitors and multiple regulators have claimed are no different than traditional sports betting prop wagers. 

Betr, Prize Picks and Underdog Sports received formal "cease and desist" letters in Florida on January 31. A similar move is expected in Massachusetts. 

3 Operators Exit Massachusetts Since Launch

Sportsbetting has become a $5.6 billion industry since launching both retail and online in 2023. But that has made the Massachusetts market one of the most competitive in the nation. 

Retail sports betting launched just over a year ago. Mobile betting began on March 10, 2023. Since then the state's handle has become among the highest in the nation. 

However, three online operators have opted out of the market and won't be renewing their licenses for 2024. 

BetwayUSA, which never launched in Massachusetts, has decided not to renew a $1 million license that it never used. Betr is focusing its resources elsewhere. WynBET began winding down its online operations last fall. The company was once active in 11 states. It operates online books in Michigan, New York, and Arizona but plans to unwind in those states, as well. Ceasars will take over to WynnBET in Michigan and ESPN BET will buy its license in New York. 

Barstool Sports was sold by its parent PENN Entertainment company back to founder Dave Portnoy. It was replaced by ESPN BET in November. 


RELATED: ESPN BET Massachusetts Promo Code BOOKIES

Massachusetts Handle Numbers Hit $5.62 Billion

Numbers through January 2024 released by the total legal sports betting handle in the Bay State at $5.6227 billion. The $5 billion mark was surpassed early in the New Year.

The January 2024 betting numbers showed that the state collected $14,265,772.87 in sports betting-related tax revenue in January. This means the state has collected more than $108.4 million in taxes and registration fees from sports betting after 11 months of retail betting and 327 days of mobile wagering. 

Of the total taxed amount for all operators, 45% is allotted to the General Fund, 17.5% to the Workforce Investment Trust Fund, 27.5% to the Gaming Local Aid Fund, 1% to the Youth Development and Achievement Fund, and 9% to the Public Health Trust Fund.

Bally Bet, which also paid $1 million last year for a license it has yet to use, will renew in Massachusetts and eventually launch there but only after focusing on operations in Rhode Island, Interim Internal Enforcement Bureau Director Caitlin Monahan said on January 4.

Five mobile operators (WynnBET, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, Fanatics, and ESPN BET) are operating under "tethered" licenses with one of the three casinos in the state.

In addition, both Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park have retail and mobile licenses available but have yet to find operators or partners for any of them. A deal between Raynham and Caesars collapsed last summer. 

Suffolk Downs is said to be close to a deal with DraftKings to open a retail sports book in the Causeway Street area near TD Garden. 

When asked about the available licenses in Massachusetts, MGC Chair Cathy Stein told the Boston Herald in late December they are the result of “assessments being made by the industry and operators.” Bet365 last year decided not to execute its application for a license because of excessive regulatory concerns, it said. 

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Big Numbers In Massachusetts Statewide

In December, the state's legal sports betting handle was $651,747,269.22 

Overall, the state's mobile and retail sports betting handle in 2023 and the first month of 2024 was $5,624,209,639.32. The sportsbooks' taxable net adjusted gross was $542,319,322.77, with operators paying $95,953,790.27 in state taxes.

When sports betting became law in 2022, supporters estimated it would generate between $60-70 million in tax revenue for the Commonwealth. 

Mobile betting began in the Bay State on March 10 of last year, while retail betting began on January 31.

PENN Entertainment's launch of its ESPN BET branded app has shown encouraging results, according to revenue numbers released in several states. 

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that ESPN BET's handle in January 2024, its first full month of operation, was $45,405,487.97. The book's overall market share was 6.96% of the Bay State's overall handle. 

That means ESPN BET held as the No. 3 online book in the Bay State in January in terms of betting handle, behind only DraftKings and FanDuel. ESPN BET beat out both BetMGM and Caesars, which have been active since mobile betting began in March. 

PENN officially launched ESPN BET on the afternoon of November 14. 

DraftKings Dominates In Home State  

DraftKings has led the state in online handling since mobile betting began in March. The Boston-based book saw its handle in Janaury stand at  $311,414,401.86 on a hold of 11.86%.

FanDuel remained a distant second with $194,031,542.95 in total handle while grabbing a healthy 13.19% hold.

On the retail side, the Encore Boston Harbor topped Plainridge Park and MGM Springfield with $6,129,887.80 in handle, 

Suffolk Downs, Raynham Seek Category 2 Partners

Suffolk Downs may be considering a downtown Boston site for its retail sportsbook near TD Garden. Its owners have not announced any plans, or even if they plan to partner with any outside operators. The former thoroughbred racing operator has been linked to BetRivers but could also partner with DraftKings to give the company a retail site in its home state. Suffolk has yet to submit its application.

After Caesars Sportsbook pulled out of its deal to run a sports book at Raynham Park last summer, the facility's owners Massasoit Greyhound Association will not be getting a sports betting license until they land a new partnership. 

Caesars terminated its operating lease agreement with the owners of Raynham Park and withdrew its application for the MGC to run the sportsbook at the former greyhound racing facility south of Boston in August. It would be the fourth retail betting site in the state.

The gaming commission voted to remove Christopher Carney from MGA's application. He is the son of longtime Raynham Park owner George Carney. That was a pivotal move given the concerns Christopher Carney's presence on the license raised with regulators. 

Details of the MGC investigation into the Carney family found several violations cited by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concerning the handling and disposal of hazardous and/or construction-related materials were committed by companies operated by the Carney family. Those violations and the subsequent fines were not initially disclosed during the MGC's investigative process. 

Neither Caesars nor representatives of the Carney family have responded to requests for comment. 

The former greyhound track and current simulcasting facility located south of Boston first opened in 1940. It was purchased by George Carney in 1966.

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How Sports Betting In Massachusetts Works

The law allows Massachusetts betting apps to serve those over 21 and physically present in the state.

Here’s an outline of the new law’s highlights:

Category Final Law
Retail Operator Tax15%
Mobile Operator Tax20%
Est. State Annual Revenue$60M
Minimum Age21
Betting Appsup to 15
College BettingOut of State teams*
Credit CardsProhibited from funding accounts
Debit CardsPermitted to fund accounts
Advertising LimitsNone
Licensing Fee$5M for 5 Years

College wagering for in-state schools is allowed for teams participating in tournaments that feature four or more teams, which would include the NCAA Hockey and Basketball Tournaments, ACC and Ivy League championships, and ice hockey’s Beanpot

History Of Massachusetts Betting

The Massachusetts Lottery celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. Gambling legislation in Massachusetts goes back to 1719, when the first laws were passed to prohibit lotteries. The first state lottery in Massachusetts was legalized in 1745 before it was outlawed again in 1833.

Parimutuel betting on horse and dog racing was legalized in 1934. Suffolk Downs was a mainstay on the national thoroughbred racing circuit until its final race in 2014. Greyhound tracks in Massachusetts included sites in Taunton/Raynham, Revere, and Plainfield. A 2009 law outlawed dog racing in the state.

Plainridge Park Casino in Plainfield hosts a limited harness racing season. Foxboro Raceway operated harness racing from 1947 to 1997 on what is now the current site of One Patriot Place, adjacent to Gillette Stadium.

Illegal betting has been a part of the fabric of the Bay State for centuries. Illegal bookmakers remain commonplace. A point-shaving scandal rocked Boston College in 1978-79 and was a real-life connection to the movie “Goodfellas".

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.