Massachusetts sportsbook interest high as legalization remains uncertain

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Massachusetts’ sports betting legislation prospects remain unclear but there is no doubt many top operators are hoping to enter the state if (or when) wagering is legalized.

Some of the nation’s leading sportsbooks by market share already have physical ties to the state. Others have a less tangible but nevertheless poignant affiliation with Massachusetts.

Several companies have invested millions in casino gaming already. As many as a dozen seem poised to invest millions more should sports wagering become legal.

This comes in one of America’s most highly educated, affluent and sports-crazy jurisdictions, factors that correlate positively with sports betting participation and dollars wagered.

“Talking to folks at Spectrum (Gaming) and others, they say that Massachusetts will be a great sports betting market,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Jerry Parisella, one of the lawmakers on a conference committee negotiating the state’s sports betting bill, during in an industry conference last week.

Parisella and his fellow lawmakers effectively have until July 31 if they want to legalize sports betting this year, with hopes the first retail and online books could start taking bets in the ensuing six to 12 months. Should lawmakers reach consensus on the long-stalled legislation, there will be no shortage of companies lined up to start accepting wagers.

Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor casino has everything set up for a retail sportsbook except for employees behind the counter. The casino a few miles from downtown Boston has televisions, ticket counters, benches, chairs and special cushioned seating areas near drink-and-dinning options, creating what already looks and feels like a WynnBet sportsbook.

On the other side of Massachusetts, MGM Springfield also has a potential future BetMGM sportsbook set up. MGM’s property in western Massachusetts includes movie theater-style seating along with more than a dozen big-screen televisions, a bar and a ticket counter which, like Encore, has all the makings of a sportsbook sans the ability to take bets.

Penn National, which operates the state’s other major gaming establishment at a slot facility in Plainridge, would also undoubtedly pursue some sort of sports betting license. Dave Portnoy, the founder and most prominent personality of Penn’s Barstool Sports website (and sportsbook), is a Massachusetts native and vociferous Boston sports fan, giving the company even more incentive to launch a sportsbook in the Bay State.

Massachusetts state Rep. Jerry Parisella: “We love our sports in Massachusetts. We’re trying to do what we can to make (sports betting) happen.”

Meanwhile, Boston-based DraftKings is also set to pursue a license should Massachusetts lawmakers legalize sports betting. CEO Jason Robins didn’t touch on Massachusetts sports betting legalization during a 10-minute address to state lawmakers and gaming industry figures last week, but it’s no secret Robins wants his company to take bets in its home state.

Caesars and FanDuel, which don’t have the same direct or indirect ties with the state, are nevertheless also positioned to push for a Massachusetts sports betting license. Both companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars while expanding across the US and would surely make a similar foray into a strong market such as Massachusetts.

Though a licensing and regulatory structure hasn’t been finalized, all companies mentioned above would undoubtedly look to find a way into the state. Depending on Massachusetts’ structure, it would be no surprise to see 20 or more additional operators at least express interest in a license.

FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caeasers have more than 80 percent market share across operating US markets. Combined with likely WynnBet and Barstool sportsbooks, there remain limited market share opportunities for any other operators.

Still, the state’s potential as one of the nation’s best sports betting environments may be too much for any major operator to pass up.

The strong Massachusetts demographic environments – as well as some of the nation’s most beloved and successful sports teams – could set up a dream environment for operators, even before considering their existing ties to the state.

With less than three weeks before the latest sports betting legalization deadline passes, there’s no doubt about sportsbooks’ interest, even if the ability to do so remains undetermined.

“We love our sports in Massachusetts,” Parisella said last week. “We’re trying to do what we can to make (sports betting) happen.”

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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