Despite progress, Massachusetts sports betting still months away

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Massachusetts regulators took several steps toward the state’s mobile sports betting launch but reaffirmed the state’s go-live date is still months away.

Commissioner Bradford Hill of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said during a meeting Thursday that neither the state’s first online nor retail sportsbooks would be able to open in the coming weeks. Citing a report from a Boston sportstalk radio station earlier that morning that said the first retail books could open in the next three weeks, Hill said “obviously, that’s not going to happen.”

“I hope that the media can understand that putting information like that out to popular shows, is very harmful to the process,” Hill said. “And if they want the information and correct information, they can tune into us almost weekly, from this point on, and get updates on what’s going on.”

Massachusetts’ sports betting legalization bill was signed into law last month, beginning a lengthy rulemaking and regulatory review process currently underway by the commission. The bill tasks the MGC with promulgating and approving a host of key sportsbook rules, including licensing certifications, responsible gaming tools and the launch date.

The commission advanced several of these key measures during Thursday’s meeting but didn’t provide a further timeline. Regulators have indicated the launch is at least several months away, likely in late 2022 or early 2023.

Kansas earlier this month completed the quickest turnaround from bill signing to first online bet at just over three months. Maryland, which still hasn’t launched online sports betting, will be the nation’s longest, likely exceeding 18 months.

Massachusetts lawmakers approved the sports betting bill in August, making it logistically impossible to take a bet by Thursday’s NFL season opener. Regulators – and Massachusetts bettors – are hoping the first bet can become before February’s Super Bowl.

The Massachusetts sports betting bill will allow five retail sportsbooks, spread between the state’s three casinos and two simulcast racing facilities. Regulators have indicated they may allow retail books to open before their online counterparts, but a decision isn’t expected for several more weeks.

Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Bradford Hill: “I hope that the media can understand that putting information like that out to popular shows, is very harmful to the process.”

MGM Springfield, Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor and Penn Entertainment’s Plainridge Park have all prepared spaces for retail sportsbooks. Officials from all three properties said they can have their respective books live in a matter of weeks or months after they are approved by regulators.

Up to 15 online sportsbooks are expected to launch on or shortly after the go-live date. BetMGM, WynnBet and Penn’s Barstool Sportsbook are all expected to earn licensure due to their affiliations with existing Massachusetts casinos.

MGM, Wynn and Penn can also partner with another online sportsbook or launch a second “skin” under one of their own brands. The two simulcast facilities, Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs, can partner with one online third-party sportsbook apiece.

There are up to seven additional statewide mobile sports betting licenses available. Boston-based DraftKings is among the favorites to earn a  license, along with US gross gaming revenue market share leader FanDuel as well as Caesars.

More than two-dozen other sportsbook brands as well as tech providers including PointsBet, BetRivers, Hard Rock, BetFanatics and bet365 have filed formal notices of interest in a Massachusetts sports betting license. This will set up one of the most competitive licensing processes of any state in the country.

Massachusetts has been among the most anticipated sports betting markets in the country. Home to many of the nation’s most popular professional sports teams, Massachusetts also has one of the nation’s highest education and per capita income levels, factors that correlate positively with sports betting participation.

Once live, Massachusetts will have more legal online sports betting options than all other New England states combined. Massachusetts will also have more legal wagering options than US handle leader New York, which currently only allows nine operators.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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