Massachusetts Sports Betting Launch in a Holding Pattern

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A view of the Fenway Park grandstand before the Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP.

Legalized sports betting in the Bay State has been a hot-button topic ever since PASPA was overturned and states were given the right to legalize it or shun it.

Massachusetts is now the latest state to give licensed sportsbooks the green light but a quick launch is not likely.

Bill Waiting to Be Signed

The Massachusetts legislature worked into the wee hours of Monday morning to negotiate a compromise sports betting bill that includes a relatively low tax for the operators, 20% for online platform providers, and 15% for in-person sportsbooks. The bill also allows betting on college sports, although Massachusetts schools were nixed unless they are playing in a national tournament – think March Madness.

“I am proud to announce that the Sports Betting Conference Committee has reached an agreement on legislation that will legalize wagering on professional and collegiate sports in Massachusetts, bringing the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to MA,” Democratic House Speaker Ron Mariano said in a tweet.

As for Governor Charlie Baker, he has made his intentions crystal clear if a sports betting bill were to land on his desk. “There are many things that would make me happy before I leave office if I have the chance to sign them,” Baker said back in January. “One of them would certainly be a sports betting bill.”

Details Trickling Out

Naturally, the three Massachusetts gambling destinations – Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville – were pleased with the results as all of them, as well as race tracks, will be allowed up to two online skins or licenses.

Encore Casino CEO Craig Billings said in a statement, “Our next step is to work with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to apply to provide premium sports betting opportunities for our guests in the WynnBET Sports Bar at Encore Boston Harbor and on the WynnBET app.”

There will also be seven licenses available to online operators without having to be aligned with one of the brick-and-mortar gambling facilities. But unlike in other states, there will be no sports-betting kiosks that commonly dot the landscape of convenience stores, pubs, and truck stops. However, expansion into those venues could ultimately be rolled out after the requisite studies are conducted.

The usual suspects like FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings are expected to join the party and pay a licensing fee that will range between $1 million for a temporary license and $5 million for a five-year license.

How Will Massachusetts Use the Revenue?

A conservative estimate has Massachusetts raking in $35 million to as much as $65 million per year in taxes via the new revenue stream. The sports betting pie is expected to be cut up in several ways:

  • 45% earmarked to the state’s General Fund
  • 27.5% to Gaming Local Aid Fund
  • 17.5% to Workforce Investment Trust Fund
  • 9% to Public Health Trust Fund
  • 1% to the Youth Development and Achievement Fund

Will Sports Betting Be on Time for Football Season?

As for when Massachusetts residents can expect sports betting to launch, the Senate’s chief budget writer, Senator Michael Rodrigues, was asked if it would be up and running in time for the football season, “Yeah, I think it will be. Hopefully. You can bet on in-state football teams, so you can bet on the Patriots.”

But that would lead one to believe September is a reasonable expectation whereas the average time between the governor signing the legislation and the online launch is roughly eight months.

Massachusetts is hoping to expedite the process but March Madness is likely a more legitimate target date than the NFL regular season.