At long last, legal sports betting appears to be on the way to Massachusetts. After years of discussion, negotiation, progress, and then ultimately setbacks, Massachusetts legislators finally agreed to a sports betting bill in the early hours of the morning on August 1st, 2022. The bill gives the green light to both legal online and retail sports betting in the state, has room for plenty of potential licenses, and calls for a 20% tax rate. All that remains to make it official is a signature from Governor Charlie Baker, which is not expected to be a difficult hurdle.
Below we’ll break down everything you need to know about sports betting in Massachusetts. We will cover the core elements of the new Massachusetts sports betting bill, preview what the market will look like once live, talk launch dates, potential mobile sportsbooks, promotions, and more.
MA Sportsbook Alternatives: Over/Under Player Props
When will legal sports betting begin in Massachusetts?
That’s the question of the hour, isn’t it? Our quick, optimistic, hopeful, estimate is by the end of 2022.
Now that state legislators have reached an agreement on sports betting there are a few things that will need to happen before you can whip out your phone and place a legal wager in the state.
First, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will need to sign the bill into law. This needs to happen within 10 days, so August 10th, otherwise the bill gets vetoed by default. We expect that Baker, a supporter of legal sports betting, will sign the bill without issue, but it never hurts to keep your fingers crossed. We’ll keep you posted here.
After the bill is signed into law, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will need to get together and come up with their official rules. They will need to take applications from potential online sportsbooks, run background checks, and generally cross a bunch of t’s, and dot a lot of i’s. The Gaming Commission has said that they’re ready to get to work, but either way it will still take time. The start of football season seems like a stretch, but some states have managed to go from a bill being signed into law, to live, in 3-4 months. Therefore we think that the end of 2022, or early 2023 is certainly in play for Massachusetts.
Massachusetts journey to legal sports betting
Back in 2019, Massachusetts lawmakers looked like they’d be on the leading edge of legal sports betting — in New England, anyway. Legislators and Governor Charlie Baker filed a total of a dozen sports betting bills, and Baker included a push for legalization in his state of the state address that year. The bills were all over the map, some with stand-alone mobile, one with an “integrity fee,” and all with different tax structures.
All those bills created a bottleneck, and caused the key committee that would handle sports betting to slow things down, and the 2019 session passed with no action. The 2020 session saw similar legalization efforts fizzle, and many observers wondered what it was going to take for the state legislators to actually pass any sort of sports betting bill.
The 2021 legislative session started the same way as previous years, with several sports betting bills introduced that covered every aspect of legalization efforts, from licensing fees to a prohibition on wagering on college sports to making it legal for 18 year-olds to wager. Interest in the issue was high, but the legislature once again was unable to line up a bill that could pass both the House and Senate.
Neighboring states add pressure
This as neighboring states ramped up their legalization efforts, with legislative breakthroughs bringing mobile betting to New York and Connecticut by early 2022. New Hampshire and Rhode Island offer mobile betting and continue to attract thousands of Bay State bettors who cross the borders to place their bets. Vermont is now the only state bordering MA without legalized sports betting.
As 2021 wore on, legislators were off-and-on with sports betting. Progress appeared and then quickly washed away amongst disagreements and competing priorities. Nothing ever seemed to break through. Even in July, when good news emerged that the House had come together to pass a bill that ticked all the boxes and would bring mobile betting to the state, the Senate remained noncommittal. Similar to what played out in Ohio, legalization in Massachusetts seemed to be so elusive. That is, until it wasn’t.
Massachusetts to legalize sports betting in 2022
Despite years of interest from all areas of the Massachusetts state government, agreements on key details remained elusive. Chief among these details was whether or not betting on college sports would be allowed, and what tax rate would be optimal for the state’s betting market.
On the final day of the legislative session in Massachusetts, July 31, it was time to make something happen. A marathon session resulted in Speaker Ron Mariano announcing just after 5am local time on August 1st that they had made a deal to bring sports betting to the state.
I want to thank @RepMichlewitz and @JerryParisella, all the conferees and my colleagues in the House, as well as our partners in the Senate for recognizing the incredible economic opportunity that legalized sports betting presents. (2/2)
— Speaker Ron Mariano (@RonMariano) August 1, 2022
Massachusetts sports betting details
Now that the legislature has found a compromise on sports betting in MA, it’s worth asking, what did they compromise on? What are are the specifics of the bill and how will they shape the legal betting market in Massachusetts? Let’s take a look.
The sports betting tax rate in Massachusetts has been set at 20%, which is quite reasonable for the area. For comparison, New Jersey legalized with a very low, operator friendly 8.5% rate. However, Massachusetts could easily have gone the other way. New York set their tax rate at a whopping 51%, while Pennsylvania wasn’t far behind at 36%.
Generally speaking the higher the tax rate, the more difficult it is for online sports betting companies to operate at a profit. This can trickle down to consumers in the form of less competitive pricing, odds, and promotions. Massachusetts seems to have landed in a healthy range at 20% though. We expect a nice balance that will benefit Massachusetts online sportsbooks, bettors, and the state coffers alike.
Notably, the sports betting tax rate for retail betting is slightly lower at 15%.
Betting on college sports is permitted, excluding in-state schools
It will be legal to bet on college sports in Massachusetts, just not Massachusetts based colleges. This is a common compromise amongst states that have legalized betting to this point. College sports are such an important draw that it doesn’t make sense to leave them off of a betting sheet, however, there is often concern surrounding bets placed on amateur athletes. This way, Massachusetts sports bettors can still bet on college sports, but local athletes are protected from any associated gambling-related pressures that may arise.
For reference, once the betting market has launched in Massachusetts you will not be able to bet on:
- Boston University
- Boston College
- …or any other MASS based college or University
For example, you can bet on college football in Massachusetts, just not on in-state teams.
Massachusetts state casinos and race tracks are all eligible to apply for a retail betting license, and host in-person betting on site.
For online betting It appears that there will be seven online only, stand-alone mobile licenses. In addition, all of the retail casinos in the state, of which there are three, will be allowed two online sports betting skins each, and the in-state race tracks, one each. Add them all up and you’re looking at fifteen online sportsbooks in Massachusetts.
The most important takeaway from this is that Massachusetts will not follow states like Oregon and New Hampshire with a lottery-run, monopoly style set up where there is just one online sports betting option. There will be several choices for online betting in Massachusetts, which is great news. More competition means better promotions, better pricing, and an overall superior online betting experience for consumers.
No credit card deposits
Interestingly enough, Massachusetts did elect to ban the use of credit cards as a deposit method for MA online sportsbooks. In most states credit cards rank among the most popular sports betting banking methods. They’re convenient, everyone knows how to use them, but ultimately the legislature has gone a different direction. Not allowing bettors to deposit on credit, on balance, seems like a reasonable choice to make.
Bettors in Massachusetts will rely on other prominent methods like bank transfers, eChecks, wires, and in-person options like PayNearMe. We’ll go into more detail on deposits a little further down the page.
Potential online and mobile sportsbook apps in MA
Now that sports betting is closer than ever, it’s worth for-casting ahead to piece together what brands could eventually operate in the state. So, which operator will be first in line? There is no doubt the answer is DraftKings. DraftKings is headquartered in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and already has a monopoly in digital sports betting in neighboring New Hampshire. Now a publicly traded company, it’s a top operator in practically every state with legal mobile sports betting. DraftKings and FanDuel are the clear market leaders.
As far as other mobile platforms, unlike in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, both of which run sports betting through their lotteries and offer consumers a single choice in terms of operators, Massachusetts will have many, many mobile options. When you begin to tally the number of agreed stand-alone mobile licenses (7) with the number of skins tethered to in-state casinos and race tracks, you’re well into double digits.
While operators aren’t yet able to officially apply for a chance to operate in Massachusetts, several besides DraftKings have testified at hearings and have been invited to offer ideas, which seems to indicate that the field will be packed when sports betting is legal. MGM already has a casino in the western part of the state, so expect BetMGM be a player in the Bay State. Additionally, Wynn has a large casino/hotel right outside Boston, so we expect WynnBET to go live in the state as soon as it is able to.
In addition to those mentioned above, here’s a look at some operators we think will make an effort to launch in Massachusetts:
- Barstool Sportsbook
- Bally Bet
- Circa Sports
- FOX Bet
- theScore Bet
Land-based sportsbooks in Massachusetts
Under the new agreed upon bill, each of the retail casinos and race tracks in Massachusetts will be eligible to open an on site retail sportsbook. Massachusetts currently has three land-based gaming venues – two full-service casinos and one slot parlor.
MGM Springfield – BetMGM
MGM opened its sprawling Springfield complex in August 2018. The full-service casino was the first of its kind in Massachusetts. Springfield is located about a half-hour from the Connecticut border, which for many years dominated the New England casino landscape, with two full-service, Las Vegas-style tribal resort casinos dating to the 1980s. MGM Springfield already has a tap room-styled sports bar complete with bowling alleys, and will most certainly add a sportsbook to its casino as soon as possible.
Encore Boston harbor – WynnBET
Wynn Resorts has also opened its Encore Boston Harbor, located in Everett, Mass., about five miles from downtown Boston and fronting the harbor. The luxury resort has a high-end art collection, luxury retail shops and plenty of public amenities in addition to the casino floor. Like MGM Springfield, the Encore has a sports bar and will likely open a sportsbook book quickly after legislation is passed.
Plainridge Park Casino – Barstool Sportsbook
The oldest gaming venue in Massachusetts is the Plainridge Park Casino, a slot parlor that opened in 2015 and is operated by Penn National Gaming. Due to its ownership of Barstool Sports, PNG is a key player in the sports betting world. The slots parlor is part of a bigger venue that includes a harness-racing track, which has been in existence since 1999, but has had myriad legal issues. The venue is the only harness-racing facility in the state, and it offers simulcast wagering. A Barstool Sports-themed sportsbook would be a natural fit at this racino.
DraftKings in Massachusetts
The daily fantasy giant was started in almost the same way as Microsoft and Apple — in the garage of one of the owners. The principals in the company, Jason Robins, Matt Kalish and Paul Liberman, all worked together at VistaPrint before launching their business on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day in 2012. During its first six years of existence, DraftKings was strictly a daily fantasy company, but on Aug. 1, 2018, it entered the sports betting market when it took the first legal, digital sports bet in New Jersey.
Between 2018 and July 2021, DraftKings has expanded its online presence to 12 states, and is one of the top operators in all of them. On April 24, 2020, DraftKings went public, and is listed on the NASDAQ under the symbol DKNG.
Prior to going public, DraftKings had explored a merger with rival FanDuel in 2016, but the Federal Trade Commission blocked the plan, claiming it would give the pair a monopoly. The merger was called off in mid-2019. Fox Sports (now Disney), the Kraft Group (owners of the New England Patriots) and Wellington Management (financial firm) each have a stake in DraftKings. The company also has partnerships or agreements with Caesars Entertainment (now part of Eldorado Resorts), Penn National as well as other gaming and hospitality interests.
DraftKings has always had its headquarters in Boston, and in 2019, moved into new offices in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. The 105,000-square-foot space is the largest single-floor space in Boston.
A look at sports betting throughout New England
New England states have been all over the map with how they are addressing sports wagering. Rhode Island was among the first states out of the blocks in terms of legalizing and going live with its Lottery-run platforms. Governor Gina Raimondo signed sports betting into law in June 2018 and the state took its first bet before the end of the year. It had a regional monopoly (on the legal market) until December 2019 when DraftKings launched its mobile platform in New Hampshire. Though both states offer patrons a chance to bet online from anywhere in the state, there is no competition. There is a single commercial operator — DraftKings in New Hampshire and IGT in Rhode Island — offering odds. And in both jurisdictions, sports wagering is offered through the state lottery.
From 2019 to 2021, Maine appeared to be the New England state that would most please operators. In 2019, the legislature passed an open, competitive sports betting bill that would have allowed for stand-alone mobile platforms and up to 11 retail sports betting licenses. But despite the backing of the legislature, Governor Janet Mills vetoed sports betting January 2020, becoming only the second governor to do so. In 2021, the legislature tried again, introducing similar legislation that did not require tethering and would have brought mobile betting to the state.
Unfortunately, during floor consideration of the bill, a tethering requirement was attached, much to the dismay of the bill sponsor, who actually tried to kill his own bill. It passed the House, but was not considered by the Senate prior to adjournment. Yet another step in the messy path Maine has taken toward legalized sports betting.
This stands in contrast to Connecticut and New York, two states that had similar contentious disagreements about legalized sport betting. Unlike Maine, the Nutmeg and Empire States saw how much state revenue they were leaving on the table and came to an agreement to legalize mobile betting. Connecticut launched in October 2021, and New York in 2022. In Vermont, lawmakers continue to consider a sports betting study bill.
Sportsbooks in Massachusetts will utilize most of the same banking options that are available in other betting states, with the exception of credit cards. We touched on this earlier, but Massachusetts will not allow deposits through credit cards. Other popular methods that will be relied upon instead include:
- Online bank transfer
- Site-specific prepaid debit cards
- Cash at the casino cages
- Paper check
Frequently asked questions
Is legal sports betting live in Massachusetts?
Not quite yet. There is a bill in place, but it won’t officially be “legal” until the governor puts pen to paper. Stay tuned.
Who will eventually be able to place real-money sports bets in Massachusetts?
Those over the age of 21 and not affiliated with a professional or college team or sport will be able to place bets. You also must be physically located in the state of Massachusetts.
How many online sportsbooks will be available in Massachusetts?
Under the current agreed upon legislation we’re looking at fifteen online sportsbooks in Massachusetts.
Where will I bet able to place sports bets in person?
All of the state’s retail casinos and horse tracks have been approved to offer in-person betting:
- MGM Springfield
- Encore Boston Harbor
- Plainridge Park
- Raynham Park
- Suffolk Downs
Will in-person registration be required?
Thankfully not! There is no in-person registration provision in Massachusetts.
What bet types and betting markets will be available?
Bettors will be able to wager on college sports (though not on in-state teams), professional and Olympic sports along with overseas professional sports like European soccer and cricket. Essentially everything other than in-state college teams will be fair game with Massachusetts online sportsbooks.
- August 1, 2022: Full page update to reflect the news that a sports betting bill had been agreed upon in Massachusetts!