Massachusetts sports betting took one step closer to becoming a reality with a revised Massachusetts House Bill 3974. The bill could legalize sports betting on professional and college sports in the state. The state will almost certainly legalize sports betting in 2021, but to what extent remains to be seen.
It’s been a bumpy road thus far, with close to two dozen different and competing bills introduced by state lawmakers over the last couple of years. Although the legalization process seemed all but dead, sudden and unexpected movement in July 2021 means the process could be moving forward.
Let’s take a closer look at the sports betting industry in Massachusetts so far and explore how it might develop in the near future.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Updates
October 5, 2021:
According to state Senate President Karen Spilka, Massachusetts sports betting is not a top priority in 2021.
July 26, 2021:
Six mobile licenses could be the limit in Massachusetts if bill S.269 were to pass.
July 22, 2021:
The Massachusetts House of Representatives approves H.3977, a bill aimed at legalizing retail and online sports betting. The measure passed by a vote of 156-3.
July 22, 2021:
The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee schedules a debate on MA House Bill 3974.
July 19, 2021:
Massachusetts lawmakers breathe new life into legal sports betting with House Bill 3974. On July 19, the bill referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
April 1, 2021:
The newest proposal for the fiscal 2022 budget does not include sports betting revenue. This is a sign that sports betting legalization is still very much up in the air.
March 1, 2021:
Over a dozen sports betting bills are introduced by Massachusetts lawmakers. On top of the Governor’s proposal, which would be highly favorable for sports betting operators, additional proposals range from taxing gross revenue up to 35% to applications fees as high as $10 million.
February 1, 2021:
Governor Charlie Baker introduces Bill H. 70, An Act expanding sports wagering in the Commonwealth, which would tax gross gaming revenue for in-person bets by 10% and online sports bets at 12.5%. To receive a license, operators would have to pay a $100,000 application fee and an additional $500,000 for the license itself.
January 1, 2021:
The 2020 Massachusetts legislative session ends without sports betting legalization. Lawmakers were free to reintroduce past bills as well as propose new legislation starting January 6, 2021.
Review Of The Top Sports Betting Sites Coming To Massachusetts
If Massachusetts legalizes sports betting, these are the most likely online sportsbooks to come to the state:
- BetMGM: Given the presence of MGM Springfield, BetMGM Sportsbook will likely be one of the first to launch in Massachusetts.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: Alongside DraftKings, FanDuel is usually one of the first to launch in states that legalize online sports betting.
- WynnBET: Encore Boston Harbor is owned by WynnBET Resorts, giving it early market access for when the state legalizes sports betting.
- DraftKings Sportsbook: With its headquarters in Massachusetts, DraftKings is all but guaranteed a spot.
- Barstool Sportsbook: Given the fact that Penn National Gaming, which owns Barstool Sportsbook, operates Plainridge Park Casino, this is yet another almost certain Massachusetts online sports betting app.
For now, there are no sportsbooks in Massachusetts whatsoever, not even at the retail casino sites that dot the state. This is ironic given that DraftKings – one of the biggest names in the sports betting industry – has its headquarters in Massachusetts.
It remains to be seen how Massachusetts lawmakers will legalize sports betting and what restrictions or regulations they may impose. One likely possibility is the attachment of future sportsbook licenses to retail casinos, of which Massachusetts has three:
- Encore Boston Harbor
- MGM Springfield
- Plainridge Park Casino
Under a traditional sports betting legalization format, retail sportsbooks may open up with licenses provided by these brick-and-mortar casinos. Furthermore, Massachusetts residents might see sportsbooks open up at horse racing tracks in retail formats.
Due to DraftKings’ presence and the popularity of online sports betting in general, it’s likely that any future sports betting legislation will include provisions for mobile sports betting. Indeed, Governor Charlie Baker has already proposed that Massachusetts might make a good case for online-only sports betting, like Tennessee.
Ultimately, we will have to wait to see how legislative developments proceed before we can make any concrete predictions about the future Massachusetts sports betting market.
How To Place A Bet In Massachusetts
When sportsbooks come to Massachusetts, players will have a number of ways to place bets.
Visit a Retail Casino or Horserace Track
Should Massachusetts legislation only provide licensure for retail sportsbooks, players will need to place bets by visiting casinos or horse race tracks in person. Before they place a bet, they’ll need to show their ID to prove that they are 21 years of age or older.
Note that this format necessarily requires players to show up before or during games depending on the types of wagers they want to place.
Choose And Download A Sportsbook App
It’s likely that Massachusetts will allow for online sports betting apps. If that’s the case, players will first have to choose a sportsbook that they want to use and bet from there or download the app to their mobile device.
iPhone users can simply download their sportsbooks of choice straight to their devices by searching for the sportsbook name in the App Store.
For Android users, the Google Play store just recently allowed online betting apps, so some platforms are not yet available through Google Play. If that’s the case, simply visit the sportsbook’s website and download the Android app directly from there.
Register With Your Sportsbook
After downloading a sportsbook app, players will be able to register by providing some key pieces of personal information. This includes date of birth and physical address, both of which are necessary to verify the player’s age and identity.
You will then need to verify your account, which is usually as simple as email verification or text message code.
Fund Your Account
After registration is complete, players will be able to fund their accounts using a variety of deposit methods. While Visa and MasterCard are usually options, these can come with cash advance fees. It’s best to deposit using online bank transfer or PayPal, which usually do not come with fees. Both are also available for funding your account as well as cashing out.
Players will want to pay attention to any signup and welcome bonuses that may come with their sportsbooks of choice. Different sportsbooks provide competing introductory promotions, such as risk-free first bet and deposit-match bonuses, to attract new members.
Place A Wager
After funding their accounts, players will be able to place wagers using their downloaded sportsbooks right away. All sports betting apps will offer bets on major league sports and college events (if allowed). Aside from those, the options can vary depending on the platform, so check to make sure it has what you’re looking for before joining.
Massachusetts Legal Sportsbooks
Ultimately, it’s a better idea to wait for legal sports betting to come to Massachusetts than it is to use an illegal or offshore site. There are a few major reasons for this:
- For one, offshore and illegal sportsbooks don’t have reputable digital security. There’s nothing stopping them from taking advantage of your funding or abusing your personal information, such as by selling it on the black market
- For another, illegal sportsbooks are not on the hook to honor your wagers or provide you with your winnings in the same way that a licensed sportsbook operator is. There’s no one to turn to if an illegal sportsbook cheats you out of your money
- Lastly, offshore sportsbooks don’t usually have player-friendly odds or good wager types. They may not use official league data when calculating their odds and you’re betting pools may be smaller than average
All in all, offshore and illegal sportsbooks are always a bad idea. While the wait for legal sports betting in Massachusetts has been long, it’ll be well worth it in the end.
Licensed and regulated sportsbooks have top-tier digital security, will be overseen and regulated by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and provide sports bettors with player-friendly odds and entertaining wagering opportunities.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Revenue
At this time, it’s difficult to estimate how much revenue the Massachusetts state government could expect after launching sports betting throughout the state.
However, New Jersey – one of the earliest states to legalize sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of PASPA – already has earnings reports from its sports betting industry. New Jersey’s earnings can serve as a hypothetical benchmark with which to compare future Massachusetts sports betting earnings.
The two states have similar populations and are in the same geographic area. They also have big focuses on American sports like baseball and football, so it’s likely that Massachusetts residents will place sports wagers at the same frequency as New Jersey sports bettors.
Recent data indicates that New Jersey enjoyed some of its most profitable sports betting months in October and November 2020. October sports betting revenue neared $60 million and November sports betting revenue totaled $50.55 million. All told, New Jersey’s state government has enjoyed fantastic earnings ever since the launch of its sports betting industry.
While it will take time for Massachusetts to build up to those numbers, it’s likely that the state will enjoy similar revenue numbers if and when sports betting is finally legalized. In fact, this potential revenue is likely a big reason why state legislators are pushing for sports betting so enthusiastically.
How Massachusetts Compares To Other States
Compared to other states, Massachusetts is far from strict. For instance, Massachusetts has a thriving horse race betting scene. The state has had a number of successful racetracks over the years, including Suffolk Downs, which operated from 1935 to 2019. Today, only one race track remains: Plainridge Park in Plainville. But this still allows horse race bettors to enjoy their favorite pastime without having to rely on online apps.
Players can also partake in online horse race betting using operators like TVG, TwinSpires, and BetAmerica. Massachusetts also provides three off-track betting parlors throughout the state. These are places where you can make horse bets without having to bet at the physical track.
Massachusetts also has a few casinos open for business. In total, the state has licenses for two active commercial casinos and another slots-only casino, though current legislation also provides room for a third commercial casino to be built sometime in the future. These casinos are:
- MGM Springfield Casino
- Encore Boston Harbor Casino
- Plainridge Park Casino – this is a slots-only casino. It also includes some virtual table games
In addition, local Native American tribes are seeking a resolution toward a long-stalled casino build in Taunton. Therefore, more casinos could crop up over the next few years relatively easily.
Overall, eventual sports betting legalization is all but certain. The state’s population is not all that against gambling and state legislators are almost unanimously pushing for legalization sometime in the near future. The only questions are how and when that legalization will come to pass.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Successes And Failures
Massachusetts Sports Betting Success
Currently, Massachusetts doesn’t have any sports betting successes to speak of because there aren’t any sportsbooks open to the public. While there are offshore sports betting sites, these should never be used due to their lack of security and sketchy practices.
However, the state has successfully run several commercial casinos for many years at this point without major controversies. Furthermore, progress toward allowing Native American tribes to open their own casinos has been moving steadily (albeit slowly).
These are all good signs that it’s just a matter of time until sports betting is legalized.
Where Could Massachusetts Improve Online Gambling
Of course, Massachusetts could be doing even better with online gambling by allowing it in the first place. At the time of this writing, horse betting is the only approved form of online gambling in the state, with the exception of the state lottery.
Massachusetts does not allow any online casino or card games. Players can only participate in these activities if they visit some of the above-mentioned commercial casino locations.
Massachusetts could certainly improve by opening up legislation to include not only sports betting legalization but online casino legalization as well. Many of the operators that already provide daily fantasy sports in the state, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, will be well-positioned to offer sports betting and casino games quickly if they are ever legalized.
In other words, Massachusetts is poised to become the next big online gambling hub on the eastern seaboard, alongside states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But for now, the state has been relatively slow about launching its gambling industry.
Legalization Effort In Massachusetts
Initial outlines for sports betting launches throughout Massachusetts were already drawn up when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, indicating a massive desire to provide sports betting as soon as possible.
Yet the Massachusetts legislative bodies got bogged down in the details. For example, initial prospective sports betting bills began with details like a $1 million application fee for any new operators and a relatively low tax rate for online and retail operations.
This apparently displeased some legislators as the bill did not proceed until it was heavily modified to include an increased $10 million application fee and a 15% sports betting revenue tax.
Still, the state has had a few major sports betting champions pushing for legalization the entire time. Governor Charlie Baker is one of them. He has specifically proposed that sports betting be an online-only activity in Massachusetts, although recent developments in the discussion indicate that retail sportsbooks are not off the table either.
Massachusetts House Bill 3974
It seemed like the time had passed for state lawmakers to continue the momentum by the summer of 2021. Over the weekend of July 18, though, news broke that state lawmakers were polled about their interest in pass sports betting. Instead of the original 12 sports betting bills that were introduced, Massachusetts House Bill 3974 was substituted and hearings scheduled.
HB 3974 proposes 3 categories of licenses. Category 1 would allow casinos to apply for a license to launch up to 3 sports betting apps. Category 2 allows horse racing tracks to receive a license. Category 3 would permit mobile-only, untethered licenses for betting apps, with no limit on the number of apps. Unlike the previous Senate bill, HB 3974 would permit college betting other than prop bets and e-sports betting in Massachusetts.
Timeline Of Massachusetts Sports Betting
- November 2011 – Then-Governor Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act, which allowed three commercial casinos to be built in separate regions throughout the state
- 2018 – Massachusetts state legislators looked at expanding sports betting as the Supreme Court struck down the PASPA
- 2019 – It was throughout this year that the Massachusetts legislature proposed multiple possible sports betting bills. None of these progressed out of the committee phase and were individually struck down due to minor disagreements about the details
- 2020 – Early legislative momentum for legal sports betting came to a grinding halt as the state reprioritized its focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
- 2021 – Over a dozen sports betting bills have been introduced since the 2021 legislative session began on January 6. The most promising for sports bettors and operators is H. 3974. It would tax retails sports betting revenue at 12.5% and mobile betting revenue at 15%, creating an enormously competitive market.
Massachusetts Professional Sports Teams
Many people are eagerly awaiting sports betting’s launch in Massachusetts in part because it has a wide range of professional sports teams and associated fans. Though Massachusetts overall is small, Boston is one of the biggest cities and it alone hosts five professional sports franchises. These include:
- The New England Patriots, an NFL team
- The New England Revolution, an MLS team
- The Boston Celtics, an NBA team
- The Boston Bruins, an NHL team
- The Boston Red Sox, an MLB team
All of these teams have reached national acclaim at one time or another in their respective sports. Furthermore, Boston is home to the historic Fenway Park, which is arguably one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the country.
Overall, future sports betting apps or retail sportsbooks will allow players to place wagers on most major sports leagues, including basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and even eSports (depending on the app). Because many Massachusetts residents are at least passing fans of sports, the markets should be quite big and varied.
Massachusetts College Sports Teams
It’s tough to say whether Massachusetts will allow collegiate sports betting. Many states have either outright banned sports bets on college sports or banned betting on in-state collegiate teams. Though no official word has come out so far, Governor Charlie Baker has previously proposed a ban on all college betting.
The most recent sports betting bill to be discussed, however, only included a provision to ban betting on in-state collegiate teams. Either way, this would likely be a disappointment for sports betting enthusiasts. Massachusetts has tons of popular college sports teams and big followings. Among others, these include:
- Harvard University Crimson
- Boston College Eagles
- Boston University Terriers
- Northeastern University Huskies
- University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks
Many states with online sports betting allow betting on college sports on all schools except those located in-state. Massachusetts will likely do the same or allow betting on all colleges, including in-state schools.
Other Sports To Bet On In Massachusetts
As mentioned earlier, Massachusetts is also a big state for horse betting even though it only has a single operating track these days. Online horserace betting is already provided via operators like TVG. But new sportsbook operators may also provide horse bets to racing fans if and when they launch across the state.
Massachusetts Sports Betting FAQs
No, not yet. However, there is significant legislative momentum behind the push for sports betting legalization. It’s likely that sports betting will be legalized sometime over the next year or so.
No. Sports betting, in general, is still illegal in Massachusetts. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether future legislation will allow for sports betting on college sports in this state.
When sports betting is finally launched in Massachusetts, sports bettors will need to be 21 years of age or older. This matches the age limit for most other online gambling activities throughout the US.
Only if the online sportsbook app is licensed and regulated. Licensed and regulated sportsbooks are investigated before they launch in their licensed state. If they receive a license, they have a minimum amount of digital security, insurance for their users in case any winnings are lost, and more.
Not yet. However, DraftKings’ headquarters is located in Boston. If and when sports betting launches, you can bet that DraftKings will be among the first apps to bring sports betting to Massachusetts residents.
The details about sports betting regulation have not yet been finalized. But it’s likely that the newly created Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be responsible for regulating all sportsbook activities in this state. It will work in conjunction with other regulatory bodies like the Massachusetts Lottery, as well.