When Will Massachusetts Legalize Sports Betting and Online Gambling?
There is hope Massachusetts will legalize sports betting by some time in 2023. The prevailing thought is that would then pave the way for gambling at online casinos to become legal, too.
Michael Rodrigues, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Chairman, said during a June 9 conference committee meeting that his group is working hard to get a sports betting bill on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk “as quickly as possible.”
The Senate and House of Representatives have passed their own versions of sports betting legislation. The House bill, which it passed last summer, allows betting on college sports. The Senate bill, which is passed in April, doesn’t. Oregon is the only state that bans all college sports betting.
There are other differences, such as tax rates and how many mobile sportsbooks will be allowed. But college sports betting appears to be the stickiest issue. Both legislative bodies would need to sign off on any bill before it goes to Gov. Baker for his approval.
So … what comes next? Negotiation. The regular legislative session ends July 31, and an informal session continues until Jan. 2, 2023.
If the House and Senate can reach an agreement on college sports betting, that could pave the way for a bill to get passed. And Rodrigues’ June 9 comments indicate there’s urgency to get that done.
Massachusetts Online Gambling
Currently, gambling with real money at online casinos or online poker is not legal in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate are working to get gambling legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker soon, but those debates focus on a sports betting bill. Online casinos have not been part of that discussion.
However, the general consensus is that, if and when Massachusetts legalizes sports betting, gambling at online casinos will soon be legalized too. Many of the same sportsbook apps that will get licenses in Massachusetts also run online casinos, so it only makes sense. And let’s be real: More online gambling options means more revenue for the state.
So, anybody interested in online blackjack, craps, slots, or anything else should root for a sports betting bill to be passed by July 31, the end of the legislative session, or Jan. 2, 2023, when an informal session ends.
What Online Gambling Is Legal in Massachusetts?
Obviously, Massachusetts residents can legally gamble at the state’s three retail casinos: Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino (slots only).
But, if you want to gamble from home or on the go, there are still legal online gambling options in Massachusetts.
You’re allowed to gamble online on horse racing in Massachusetts, and there are several great options. TVG Racing offers odds on races from around the world with a streamlined set-up. AmWager and DRF Bets are solid, too.
If and when they get sportsbook licenses in Massachusetts, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook will likely bring BetMGM Horse Racing and Caesars Racebook to the state. Those are two quality apps run by titans in the industry.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports, or DFS, was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016.
Never heard of a sweepstake casino? They’re legal in all 50 US states.
With sweepstakes gambling, players gamble using fake coins or tokens their winnings can be exchanged for real money when they’re done. SweepSlots Casino and Gambino Slots are two well-regarded sweepstakes casinos.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Updates
The quickest way for gambling at online casinos to become legal in Massachusetts is for sports betting to first become legal and open the door.
A conference committee, with members from the House and Senate, is currently focused on reaching an agreement on a sports betting bill. The House passed a sports betting bill last July, which would allow college sports betting. The Senate passed its own bill in April, which would ban college sports betting.
Although college sports betting appears to be the main road block, the House and Senate disagree on other issues, as well.
- Tax rates: The House bill proposes a 12.5% tax on in-person bets and 15% on mobile betting. The Senate bill proposes a 20% tax on in-person bets and 35% on mobile betting.
- Mobile licenses: The House bill allows for unlimited mobile sports betting licenses, and they don’t have to be tied to a retail casino. The Senate bill caps mobile sportsbooks at nine, and three would go to Massachusetts’ three casinos.
- Advertising: The Senate bill also bans sports betting ads during live sports broadcasts, and five minutes before and after those broadcasts. The House bill does not have that restriction.
Gov. Baker wants a bill passed. In a tweet before the 2021 NFL season, he said “it’s time to act” and the state “is losing out to many of [their] neighbors on this one.”
In June, Baker told reporters: “There are a lot of people who literally just drive out of Massachusetts so that they can bet on sports, and it’s happening all over the country. And without a legal way to do this, it’s a little bit like the marijuana issue. You just leave the black market there, and you don’t sort of bring it out of the shadows and make it part of the regular crime. I think we should do that.”
Again, the current legislative session ends July 31. An informal session ends Jan. 2, 2023.
History of Gambling and Sports Betting in Massachusetts
Pari-mutuel wagers for horse and dog races have been legal in Massachusetts since 1934. Today, charitable gambling activities, like bingo, raffles, and even casino nights are totally legal at certain establishments. A state lottery has been running since 1971.
Casinos were constructed after November 2011, when then-Governor Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act into law. This allowed three commercial casinos (Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor) to be constructed in distinct regions throughout the state.
In 2016, daily fantasy sports were legalized. This was a big boon to DraftKings, a major sportsbook based in Boston.
Meanwhile, sports betting has lagged behind. Multiple bills were proposed in either the House or Senate throughout 2018 and 2019, but none progressed far.
The House passed a sports betting bill in March 2020, but it didn’t advance any further. Then sports betting legalization stalled as Massachusetts and the rest of the country dealt with COVID-19.
Now, two years later, Massachusetts still hasn’t legalized sports betting. But there are encouraging developments.
The House passed another sports betting bill, H.3993, last summer. Then the Senate passed its own sports betting bill, S.2844, in April. Now, with Rodrigues signaling a sense of urgency to get a bill to Gov. Baker “as quickly as possible,” all eyes are on lawmakers to get this thing done.
Timeline of Massachusetts’ Gambling History
- 1934 — Massachusetts legalizes pari-mutuel wagering for horse races and dog races.
- 1971 — The Massachusetts state lottery is established. Tickets are sold the following year.
- November 2011 — The Expanded Gaming Act is signed into law and allows for the construction of three commercial casinos.
- June 2015 — The state’s single slots-only casino, Plainridge Park Casino, opens.
- March 2020 — Sports betting legislation moves to the House in Massachusetts with bill H.4559.
- November 2020 — Senate rejects amendment to legalize sports betting.
- February 2021 — Bill H.70 is introduced by Gov. Baker.
- April 2021 — House proposes a fiscal budget for 2022 without sports betting revenue.
- July 2021 — Bill H.3993 is overwhelmingly approved by the House.
- October 2021 — Senate President Karen Spilka does not list sports betting as a priority for the rest of the year, leading to a belief that discussion will be picked up at some point in 2022.
- April 2022 — Senate passes its own sports betting bill, S.2844.
- May 2022 — Conference committee, with members from House and Senate, is formed to try to reach an agreement on a sports betting bill.
- June 9, 2022 — Michael Rodrigues, the Senate Ways and Means Chairman, says conference committee will work to get an approved sports betting bill on Gov. Baker’s desk “as quickly as possible.”
Massachusetts Online Gambling FAQs
Yes. There are three open casinos in Massachusetts, one of which is slots only. Native American tribes are pursuing legal efforts to construct a fourth and fifth casino.
All of the open casinos are owned by private companies. Native American tribes in Massachusetts are pursuing legal efforts to construct a fourth and fifth casino.
No. Sports betting of any type is illegal, although any future sports betting legislation will likely include provisions to allow online or mobile sports betting.
No. While the state does have a lottery, it does not allow you to purchase tickets online. You can, however, see if you win online.
You need to be 21 years of age or older, which is the same age required in other states.
Yes. The only casino locations are retail, so you don’t have any online casino gambling options. So you also don’t need to worry about identity theft or other digital threats.