Massachusetts Kicks Off Online Sports Betting

Online sports betting was permitted in Massachusetts late last week, just about a month after it was permitted at the state’s three casinos—MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Racetrack. Four more online sports books, including BetMGM, which reached an agreement with the Boston Red Sox, were added in what seems to have been a smooth launch.

Massachusetts Kicks Off Online Sports Betting

The long road to online sports betting in Massachusetts came to an end—at least for a handful of operators—last week when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission OK’s a handful of operators that included the three physical casinos— MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Racetrack and added five more: Barstool Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBet and Caesars Sportsbook. The approval comes just days before the NCAA March Madness tournament kicks off and two days before the Academy Awards, where Massachusetts will become one of the few states that allow wagering on competitive entertainment events.

“We wish each of those who are operating the best of luck and, again, we reiterate our commitment to the safety and consumer protections and health and integrity of the gaming tomorrow. We know that and we have confidence that each operator is putting all of those concerns at top of their minds,” Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said after the final vote.

Several other online books were OK’d but decided to delay their debut. BallyBet and Fanatics are expected to launch in May, and Betway won’t be up and running until next year.

One of the problems of the initial retail launch was that several of the sports books accepted prohibited wagers on colleges or events involving one or more Massachusetts colleges and universities, unless they are in a tournament that includes four or more teams. No wagering is also permitted on sports that include winners named by a panel of judges, which includes the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Taxes are assessed at 15 percent for retail bets and 20 percent online. Experts estimate taxes will generate about $60 million annually with fees bringing in between $60 million and $70 million.

Boston-based DraftKings was excited about serving their hometown fans of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, according to company president and co-founder Matt Kalish. He also praised the timing of the release.

“The most common way people jump into the product is usually for some big sports event. It might be the Super Bowl or something upcoming like March Madness,” he said. “So we’re launching in Massachusetts just in time for what should be an amazing tournament.

As with most sports betting launches, the operators are offering generous bonuses for new players. Caesars tops them all with a possible $1,500 bonus.

“With the sports calendar gaining momentum and multiple Massachusetts teams having remarkable seasons, it’s a great time to bring a new entertainment experience to sports fans in the Commonwealth,” said Eric Hession, president of Caesars Digital. “Caesars Sportsbook is primed to deliver a best-in-class sports wagering experience to Massachusetts sports fans, and we’d like to thank the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for approving our expansion into the Bay State.”

BetMGM agreed it was a milestone for the company.

Chris Kelley, president of MGM Springfield, said, “Today’s news is an unprecedented opportunity for us to extend the MGM Resorts experience beyond our walls to connect with customers statewide while also improving the convenience and technology for our guests at the resort. From Boston to Amherst, fans can now be a part of the excitement with just a touch of the button that only BetMGM and MGM Springfield can deliver.”

Earlier this week, BetMGM was named an Official Sports Betting Partner of the Boston Red Sox. As part of the partnership, the BetMGM logo will be featured on the Green Monster, Fenway Park’s iconic left field wall, for the 2023 season.

There were some concerns about how the operators were promoting their services and were reminded that the responsibility for safter gambling rests with them.

“As we approach Friday, we are seeing betting apps being promoted through credits and even referral bonuses, which often lock users in for a particular period of time or until they have spent a particular sum of money. These promotions are not permitted in other industries that pose public health risks, like the sale of alcohol or marijuana, and the burden should be placed squarely on the operators to show why any particular promotion should be permitted here,” First Assistant Attorney General Patrick Moore said last week.

In a press releases, Caesars Sportsbook said that it is committed to that.

“Caesars is an industry leader in responsible gaming, continuing to focus on responsible gaming education as Caesars Sportsbook expands into new markets. As a complement to the tools in place that encourage responsible play on the Caesars Sportsbook app including Deposit Limits, Spending Limits, Daily Time Limits, and Cool Off Time Limits, Caesars recently announced two new responsible gaming policies.

“The first is the industry’s most expansive universal exclusion policy, in which any participant currently on a state-sponsored self-exclusion list where Caesars operates is added to the universal exclusion list for Caesars’ gaming facilities and platforms across the enterprise. Additionally, the company is adopting an enhanced 21+ gaming policy that will limit Caesars Rewards accounts to individuals over 21 and, where allowed by law, limit all domestic gaming, pari-mutuel, sports, and iGaming options to those over 21.”

BetMGM had a similar sentiment.

“As BetMGM continues to expand to new jurisdictions, responsible gambling education remains a key focus. BetMGM is proud to provide resources to help customers play responsibly including GameSense, an industry leading program, developed and licensed to MGM Resorts by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Through the integration within BetMGM’s mobile and desktop platforms, customers can receive the same GameSense experience they have grown to count on at MGM Resorts properties nationwide. This complements BetMGM’s already existing responsible gambling tools which serve to provide customers with an entertaining and safe digital experience.”