Massachusetts sports betting points toward 2023 launch

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Massachusetts’ first legal online sportsbooks may not launch until 2023, regulators said Thursday, though no firm timeline is yet in place.

State regulators Thursday projected a three-to-six month online sports betting rollout. Meeting for the first time since state lawmakers approved an online and retail sports betting bill, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said extensive work remains before legal wagering can begin.

“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Commissioner Bradford Hill said at Thursday’s meeting. “From my view, this is going to take a little longer than people probably anticipate.”

More than 30 states have enacted some sort of legal sports betting legislation. All have required subsequent regulatory follow-up to work through key issues not addressed by law such as sportsbook licensing requirements, revenue reporting stipulations and a myriad of other issues required to begin and regulate a legal sports betting market.

Gaming Commission officials Thursday said regulating how sportsbooks offer promotional play and third-party vendor licenses are key issues regulators must resolve before legal wagering can begin. Commission Executive Director Karen Wells said regulators must also consider a host of requirements for the state’s three pending casino retail sportsbooks, including how and where each may offer wagering kiosks on their respective gaming floors.

“Integrity is of critical importance,” Wells said Thursday. “We only get one shot to get this right.”

Massachusetts regulators must write, finalize and enact sports betting rules, a process that can take weeks if not months. Online sportsbooks must also earn licensure under the requirements of these rules, another potentially months-long process, and each must also be certified by an independent, third-party testing service.

Only a handful of states have launched sports betting in less than six months following the passage of a sportsbook legalization measure. The US national average from signed bill to first bet is roughly nine months.

Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Bradford Hill: “This doesn’t happen overnight. From my view, this is going to take a little longer than people probably anticipate.”

Though Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker still hasn’t signed his state’s bill into law yet, regulators have already introduced first drafts of the state’s sports betting rules. This could help the state expedite the launch process assuming Baker signs the bill into law as expected.

Passed by the state legislature Monday, Massachusetts’ sports betting bill will allow up to 15 online operators. It is positioned to be the most competitive market of any New England state.

The bill allows the state’s three casinos – MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino- to partner with up to two online operators apiece. All three are set to partner with sportsbooks operated by their parent companies, BetMGM, WynnBet and Barstool Sports, respectively.

All three have also built out brick-and-mortar sportsbooks within their respective casinos. These future retail books have no firm launch timeline but could be approved to start taking bets before online wagering begins.

Two pari-mutuel simulcast racing facilities are also able to have one online sports betting license apiece. Additionally, up to seven more licenses will be available to companies not partnered with any Massachusetts gaming entity.

One of the nation’s most affluent, educated and sports-crazy states, Massachusetts is projected to be among the highest-grossing per capita markets in the US. Upwards of two-dozen operators are likely to apply for licensure, including Boston-based DraftKings, which had lobbied heavily for the bill.

FanDuel, Caesars, PointsBet and Rush Street Interactive are among a host of additional notables also likely to apply.

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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