When Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Go Live? Here's What We Know
Bill Speros | 7 mins
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Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to sign a bill that legalizes Massachusetts sports betting within the next week. Once he does, the focus will shift to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Baker has until Aug. 11 to affix his signature to the bill. He has long said he would approve any betting legislation that cleared the legislature.
The groundwork to regulate sports betting in the Commonwealth has been underway for several months. The MGC will regulate, implement, and enforce all aspects of legal sports wagering in Massachusetts. Sportsbooks and casinos will need to be vetted and licensed by the Commission, as well.
“Over the last several years, we have been monitoring legislation that has designated the MGC as regulator of a Massachusetts sports wagering industry, and staff have been doing their due diligence in order to proceed swiftly should a proposal be signed into law,” a Gaming Commission spokesman said. The MGC meets again Thursday morning at 9 a.m. and will discuss a possible timeline for the regulatory process.
Several key legislators who pushed a compromise bill through a conference committee and onto the floor of the House and Senate in the early hours of Monday morning (more than five hours after the scheduled end of session) expect sports betting to begin in the Bay State sometime before or during football season.
Overview of Massachusetts Sports Betting Law
The bill allows retail sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks as well as online wagering through betting apps. As many as 15 mobile licenses will be awarded, with up to seven available for operators that are not currently connected to a brick-and-mortar establishment, including racetracks.
The law is expected to generate $60 million in annual tax revenue for Massachusetts and up to $80 million in initial licensing fees, which will need to be renewed every five years.
Here is a breakdown of the key elements of the new law in Massachusetts, officially known as the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act.
* - 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
Plainridge Park Casino (Penn National Gaming), the MGM Springfield Casino and Encore (WynnBET) Boston Harbor, as well as current parimutuel license holders and slot operators, are granted retail licenses under the new bill. They still must clear the approval process.
On-site sports bars at Encore and MGM Springfield will be converted into retail sportsbooks. Each of those current gambling license holders will be allowed to partner with up to two mobile operators.
Barstool Sports originated in Massachusetts as a betting newspaper 20 years ago and is owned by Penn National. Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM and WynnBET will begin mobile operations in Massachusetts once they clear the approval process through their current land-based operations.
Boston-based DraftKings, which has a partnership with the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, is a strong favorite to get licensed. Other mobile operators chasing the Massachusetts market will likely include FanDuel, Caesars, and PointsBet.
RELATED: Everything To Know About A Potential DraftKings Massachusetts Launch
History Of Massachusetts Betting
The Massachusetts Lottery celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 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 common place. A point-shaving scandal rocked Boston College in 1978-79 and was a real-life connection to the move “Goodfellas.”
When Will Betting In Massachusetts Begin?
Sen. Michael Rodrigues, who was one of the six members of the joint House-Senate conference committee that crafted the final bill, said betting could “hopefully” start in time for the NFL season. That's Thursday, Sept. 8, when the Bills travel to the Super Bowl champion Rams to open the 2022-23 season.
“Yeah, I think it will be,” the Westport Democrat told reporters on Monday. “Hopefully. You can bet on in-state football teams, so you can bet on the Patriots.”
Sen. Eric Lesser, another member of the conference committee, agrees. "You're talking about maybe October that the whole thing could be up and running," he told 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Tuesday. Betting could begin earlier onsite at the casinos if they're granted provisional licenses.
When sports betting does go live, expect to see lots of Massachusetts promo codes for new bettors in the Bay State. Typically when operators launch in a new market they offer deals to encourage customers to sign up, like a $1,000 risk-free bet or a game-specific deal such as Bet $5 On The Celtics To Score 1 Point & Win $200.
RELATED: Last-Minute Deal Reached To Legalize Sports Betting In Massachusetts
The final bill received widespread praise from sportsbooks and casino owners, in addition to the betting public. MGM Resorts International’s Northeast Group President Chris Kelley said the company is “thrilled” with the bill.
“This new industry will allow Massachusetts to repatriate the revenue and jobs currently being lost to neighboring states and the illegal betting market,” Kelley told Masslive.com. “We look forward to providing local sports fans an immersive, world-class sports watching and betting experience in our sports lounge along with a VIP viewing area within TAP Sports Bar.”
WynnBET had a similar reaction.
“Our next step is to work with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to apply to provide premium sports betting opportunities for our guests in the WynnBET Sports Bar at Encore Boston Harbor and on the WynnBET app,” Encore Casino CEO Craig Billings said in a statement. “Bettors will reap the benefits.”
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said his company is “thrilled that our home state has acted to protect consumers, create jobs, and grow revenue in the Commonwealth.”