Massachusetts Sports Betting
Although not yet legal, signs point to Massachusetts legalizing sports betting in the near future. Legislative efforts to bring sports wagering to the state have taken many leaps recently and, generally speaking, Bay Staters has grown more open to all forms of gambling, including sports wagering.
In 2011, the Expanded Gaming Act was signed into law, ushering in a new era for gambling in the state. Following its passing, Plainridge Park Casino, operated by Penn National Gaming, opened in 2015. In August 2018, MGM Springfield opened. In June 2019, Encore Boston Harbor opened its luxury casino resort in Everett, Massachusetts.
With neighboring states New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (along with Connecticut in 2022), and close-by Pennsylvania and New Jersey all having some form of legalized sports betting, the topic of legalization has become a more important one lately. As things stand, it’s more a matter of when, not if, sports betting will become legal in Massachusetts.
Read on for more information about the ongoing legislative process to bring sports betting in MA, what all this means for bettors in the state, which sportsbooks (besides DraftKings) will likely come to the state, what impact this will have on the existing competition from neighboring states, and answers to your frequently asked questions.
HB 3993, a bill that would legalize sports betting statewide, including mobile betting, was passed by the state House on July 22, 2021. The bill includes several provisions of interest to sportsbooks and sports bettors. Let’s go over the details:
- 12.5% tax on retail bets
- 15% tax on mobile bets
Who qualifies for a license?
- The three casinos in the state each qualify for a retail sports betting license plus three online skins
- The two horse racing facilities in the state can offer retail sports betting and qualify for one online skin
- Any number of operators can apply for a mobile-only license without having to be affiliated with, or “tethered” to, an existing casino or horse racing track
- Operators must pay a $100,000 application fee and $5 million license fee once approved
- Betting on college sports is allowed under the bill, including in-state college teams. However, prop bets on college games are not permitted.
- Wagering on eSports is also allowed under the legislation.
The fate of sports betting in MA is still uncertain, even after the passage of HB 3993 in the House. One would think that a bill that passes by a vote of 156-3 would be certain to become law, but the MA Senate doesn’t seem overly concerned with the popularity of House-passed bills. They do things their own way, and as of July 2021 there was little indication that they are in a hurry to pass any sort of sports betting legislation. This page will be updated when/if the Senate passes sports betting legislation.
The same thing happened in 2020. Sports betting was included in an economic development package passed by the House. The Senate did not act on the measure, and it did not pass, despite the assurance of revenue generated from sports betting being available to replenish the state’s coffers. If MA Senators were not persuaded then, they may not be persuaded now.
Most industry observers believe that the potential revenue will be too much for the Senate to pass up and that sports betting will be legalized in the state sometime in 2021. That may end up being true, but there are many hurdles to overcome before it happens. When/if it does happen, the state’s many passionate fans will be the winners because of the open, competitive regulatory structure that will bring many operators to Massachusetts.
Sports Teams in Massachusetts
People in Massachusetts are obsessed with sports, and the state’s professional sports teams are extremely popular. The Pats, Celts, Sox, and B’s are ingrained into the fabric of the Commonwealth, with each generation growing up fans of all four teams. Sports are a much bigger part of life there than other parts of the country. Let’s go over the sports teams and their team and/or league sportsbook partnerships:
New England Patriots
Like everywhere else, the NFL is king in MA, with the Patriots consistently being ranked in polls as the state’s most popular sports team. While the Patriots do not currently have any sports betting partnerships, that is sure to change when sports betting finally comes to MA. The NFL, meanwhile, has three official sportsbook partners: Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
The Celtics did not wait for sports betting to be legalized in MA before seeking out a sportsbook partner. They didn’t have to go very far to find their partner, with industry king DraftKings headquartered right down the street from the team’s home arena in downtown Boston. This natural partnership between the NBA’s Celtics and DraftKings will serve both parties well as legal sports betting becomes as popular in MA as it already is in neighboring states, which are also filled with Celtics fans. The NBA has partnerships with FOXBet, BetMGM, FanDuel, and Caesars.
The popular NHL team does not currently have any sports betting partnerships, but the NHL has gone all-in on sports betting, partnering with five different operators: PointsBet, Bally’s, BetMGM, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, and Betway. The league even took an equity stake in PointsBet, which pretty much solidifies which side of the gambling fence the sport is on.
Boston Red Sox
While the Sox may be Boston’s team, they have yet to anoint a sports betting partner. In a case of semantics, the Red Sox have named MGM Springfield, located in western MA, as the team’s “official casino resort.” It just so happens that MGM also has an online sportsbook, BetMGM, that will likely be live in MA as soon as sports betting is legalized. This clever turn of phrase will allow the Sox to line up additional sportsbook partnerships once sports betting comes to MA. As for the MLB, the league has several sportsbook sponsors, including MGM and DraftKings, along with many other “authorized gaming operators” that pay to use official league data.
New England Revolution
The little brother of the other big-four sports teams plays MLS soccer in the same stadium as the Patriots and is mostly a bilp on the sports radar, even with the increasing popularity of the MLS nationwide. Regardless, they stand to benefit from legalized sports betting, and will possibly partner with a sportsbook someday. MLS as a league has partnered with BetMGM, making the company its official sportsbook partner.
The PGA Tour is not a team, but it does come to the Boston area each year, drawing huge crowds to the Northern Trust tour event. DraftKings is the official sportsbook partner of the PGA Tour, even opening up a sportsbook at the Tour stop in Arizona.
Colleges and Universities
While colleges and the NCAA are steering clear of sportsbook partnerships, the fact remains that betting on college sports is very popular. The collegiate sports teams in MA have a strong base of support and will no doubt attract a lot of action when sports betting is legalized in the state. The eight Division 1 teams in the state include:
- Boston College
- UMass Amherst
- UMass Lowell
- Boston University
- Merrimack College
- Holy Cross
You can’t write a page about sports betting in MA without discussing DraftKings, the undisputed King of Sports Betting Companies Based in Massachusetts. DraftKings started in Boston back in 2012 as one of the first Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operators. The company’s founders most likely saw legalized sports betting on the horizon and figured DFS was as close as they could get until the laws were changed. Whatever their strategy, it paid off, because DraftKings is a juggernaut. The company is #1 or #2 in revenue in almost every state in which it operates. Being number one in Massachusetts would be a feather in their cap.
To that end, they have stayed true to their Boston roots, growing in the city and currently occupying a huge space in the Back Bay neighborhood. And they have partnered with the Boston Celtics and the NFL, in addition to many other partnerships nationwide. Safe to say that, when sports betting is legal in MA, DraftKings will pull out all the stops to be the most popular sportsbook in the state.
Other Likely MA Online Sportsbooks
If DraftKings is the presumptive favorite to win the battle for sportsbook supremacy in the Bay State, who will be their competition? As mentioned above, under the pending legislation, the three land-based casinos in the state will be able to offer sports betting. In addition to retail sports betting, the three casinos, owned by MGM, Wynn, and Penn National, will be bringing their online brands to the mobile market as well. That means BetMGM, WynnBET, and Barstool Sportsbook will likely be the first online sportsbooks out of the gate.
Under the pending legislation, unlike some other states, operators in MA would not have to be tied to a land-based casino in order to operate mobile sports betting. The mobile-only license model will benefit online-focused operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which could immediately apply for licenses.
When sports betting becomes legal in Massachusetts, many of the same operators we see in other states will open their doors in the Bay State. In addition to DraftKings and FanDuel, the following operators are expected to make their way to the state once sports betting is legalized:
The following operators currently operate retail casinos in the state, and will definitely go live, both retail and online, as soon as possible.
- BetMGM – MGM Springfield Casino
- WynnBET – Encore Boston Harbor
- Barstool Sportsbook/Penn National Gaming – Plainridge Park Casino
Competition From Neighboring States
Massachusetts has competition for sports betting revenue to its north, west, and south. New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all have some form of legalized sports betting. Connecticut will have legal sports betting sometime in early 2022.
New York accepted its first sports bet in July 2019 but has yet to add mobile sports betting, though the regulatory process is proceeding and we expect mobile wagering to go live in the state in 2022. New Hampshire legalized sports betting in 2019 and offers both online and retail sports betting, albeit with DraftKings having a monopoly as the only operator in the state.
Rhode Island opened its doors to sports betting in November 2018 under a monopoly model run by the state lottery. Almost a year later, in September 2019, online and mobile betting went live in Rhode Island. Vermont remains the only state bordering MA that does not offer sports betting.
Who will be able to wager in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, the legal gambling age is 21 for casinos. For lottery, bingo, and racing, the legal age to place a wager is 18. When sports betting becomes legal in Massachusetts, the legal age to place a sports wager will most likely be 21. To place a legal sports bet in Massachusetts, the bettor will have to be physically within state boundaries, both for retail and mobile wagering.
What Betting Options Will Be Available in Massachusetts?
The state will offer all of the common wagers you see everywhere else, including moneyline, point spread, totals, futures, props, parlays, teasers, and more. The same will go for the sports that are offered, with all of the major sports leagues having a wide variety of betting options. Wagering on colleges will be allowed, but college prop bets will be off limits.
Is it legal to bet on sports in Massachusetts?
No, sports betting is not yet legal in Massachusetts, but we are hopeful it will be legalized soon.
Who will oversee sports betting in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will oversee sports betting in the state.
What is the legal age to bet on sports in Massachusetts?
The legal age to bet on sports in Massachusetts will match the state’s legal gambling age of 21.
Is online/mobile sports betting legal in Massachusetts?
When Massachusetts sports betting becomes legal, online and mobile sports betting will be offered.
Which casinos in Massachusetts offer retail sports betting?
None at this time, but we expect MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Park Casino to offer sports betting in person and online when the state does legalize sports betting. The state’s two horse tracks will also be authorized to offer retail sports betting.