With Massachusetts Sports Betting Signed into Law, Here’s What You Need to Know

With Massachusetts Sports Betting Signed into Law, Here’s What You Need to Know
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

No one has ever accused folks from Massachusetts of being shy about their opinions. And that goes at least double, and more, for Bay State sports fans.

Now, after a seemingly interminable wait, Massachusetts sports fans will finally be able to put their money where their opinions are with Gov. Charlie Baker signing a Massachusetts sports betting bill into law.

It has been a year and a half in the making and went down to past the wire of a recent legislative session. With Baker’s signature on the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act, eager sports fans there, already champing at the bit, will now get to — well, they’ll get to wait some more.

As is almost always the case, once legislators pass sports betting legislation, regulators step in to sort out the nuts and bolts of how sports wagering is actually going to be conducted, and no one knows how long that’s going to take as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rolls up its sleeves.

Senator Eric P. Lesser in a statement announcing Baker's signing said he looks forward to "seeing its full implementation in the months ahead."

What Massachusetts Sports Betting Will Look Like

What is clear is that Massachusetts fans, who are at least 21, will eventually be able to place wagers both in person at a handful of traditional sportsbooks (more on that later), kiosks in bars and restaurants, and — most important — on their computers, pads and smart phones. (Remember, BetMassachusetts will be your home for the best MA sportsbook promo codes.)

OK, so once the switch is flipped on sports gambling in Massachusetts, here’s what to expect.

When Will Sports Betting Launch?

Using other jurisdictions as rough timelines, a reasonable speculation is that the in-person, aka “retail” sportsbooks, could be operating in, say, three months. A couple of the three Massachusetts casinos already have spaces set aside where betting parlors will easily fit.

The rest of it, meaning online sports betting, could happen sometime deep in the upcoming football season, but it has taken longer in some other states. For instance, Maryland’s governor signed that state’s online and retail sports gambling law in May 2021 and while retail sports betting started in December 2021, the online portion may not get going until 2023.

Funding Their Sports Betting Accounts

Perhaps the biggest curveball that sports bettors might have to cope with is funding their accounts. For folks unfamiliar with betting on the Internet with legal gambling operators, it is almost always some form of advance deposit wagering. That means when a customer signs up to have access to the gambling website for the purpose of wagering, before a bet can be placed, the customer is required to put money into an account.

In some jurisdictions, that deposit can be accomplished by using a credit card to fund the gambling account. But that won’t be the case in Massachusetts. Only debit cards will be allowed. 

In the minds of some Massachusetts lawmakers, that limitation represents a consumer protection because bettors will be gambling with money they have already allocated for that purpose. In using credit cards, bettors could be using money that they actually don’t have but will have to pay back later.

In a recent survey for BetMassachusetts, nearly 2 in 5 (37%) of the state’s sports bettors anticipate betting at least weekly and another 2 in 5 (38%) anticipate betting once a month to multiple times a year.

Can You Bet on State College Teams?

Another wrinkle to the Massachusetts law is that wagering on in-state college teams won’t be allowed with the exception that in-state teams are participating in tournament action that includes at least four teams. 

So, fans will be able to make bets on local teams who qualify for March Madness, or for other tourneys in other sports.

Where Can You Place Bets?

Unlike some other states, it looks like there will not be live sportsbooks at the pro sports stadiums, but considering mobile device betting will be legal, that doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment for bettors who attend games and want action.

As mentioned above, the live sportsbooks are currently slated for the three in-state casinos — Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park in Plainville — as well as at pari-mutuel locations, Suffolk Downs and Raynham.

The bar/restaurant kiosks will be sprinkled throughout the state but, again, with everyone basically carrying a sportsbook in their pocket in the form of a cell phone, it remains to seen how much business the kiosks generate.

Mainly, they’re an added amenity for the bars and restaurants that have them.

What will be important to customers is that there is sufficient competition among operators so that the online sportsbooks offer juicy promotions to acquire and retain customers, which has been the experience in other states.

With the state law allowing up to 15 MA betting apps, that should provide enough competition to keep the ‘books on their toes.

Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Ads Take Over TV?

Advertising for sports betting is becoming an issue of discussion around the country, but Massachusetts doesn’t appear to have any restrictions on advertising.

From the commonwealth’s point of view, the revenue from sports wagering will come from a licensing fee of $5 million for five years and tax rates of 15% (retail operators) and 20% (mobile operators). The estimated annual tax revenue is $60 million.

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Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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