When Will Massachusetts Launch Online Sports Betting?
Introduced in March 2020, Massachusetts State House Bill 4559 introduced a variety of measures to legalize sports betting in the state. Although stalled due to the pandemic in 2020, there is hope the bill will see the light of day in 2021 and legalization could follow in early 2022.
As it stands, Massachusetts is making meaningful progress toward a legal sports betting launch. The most likely bill to make sports betting in Massachusetts a reality is H.3993, which passed the state House of Representatives by a vote of 156-3.
With support like that, the state should be in an excellent position to legalize retail and online sports betting (both included in the bill). However, there’s also S.269 to contend with, which would authorize sports betting but limit the number of licensed operators to six.
Both bills are equally viable paths to legalization, but it remains to be seen which will succeed. Currently, college sports betting seems to be a sticking point among opposing lawmakers. As the bills progress through the legislative process, chances are they’ll be amended to eventually (and hopefully) reach a compromise that also gives MA sports bettors a solid market with various sports betting options.
Massachusetts practically breathes sports. Many of its residents are sports fans of either baseball, football, or basketball, which isn’t surprising given the state’s sponsoring of many professional (and winning) sports teams. The New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox have gained significant followings based on recent success.
However, sports betting has not yet been launched in this colonial-era state. Let’s take a look at sports betting as it stands in Massachusetts and explore likely operators to pursue licensure if and when legalization occurs.
History Of Gambling And Sports Betting In Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ gambling history is fairly similar to many other populous states in the country. For example, pari-mutuel wagers for both horse and dog races have been legal since 1934. Furthermore, charitable gambling activities, like bingo, raffles, and even casino nights are totally legal at certain establishments. A state lottery has been running since 1971.
However, casinos were only constructed after November 2011, when then-Governor Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act into law. This allowed three different commercial casinos to be constructed in distinct regions throughout the state. These casinos include Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor.
2016 saw the explicit legalization of daily fantasy sports. This was a big boon to DraftKings, a major sportsbook operator, which has its home in Boston.
Although other types of gambling are either legalized or well-established in Massachusetts, sports betting has lagged behind. Multiple bills were proposed in either the House or Senate throughout 2018 and 2019, though none of them have progressed very far.
March 2020 saw the proposal of a new sports betting bill that was passed by the House Committee on Ways and Means. This bill, H 4559, included language the combined many other sports wager-related bills. This bill, unfortunately, did not advance any further. Sports betting legalization was stalled in the wake of COVID-19.
The beginning of 2021 saw more movement in sports betting legislation. In February, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced House Bill 70. Numerous bills were proposed in the coming months with various licensing fees and tax rates.
In April, the outlook of having legal sports betting turned bleak. A budget proposal did not account for any revenue from sports betting. This meant that hopes for a sports wagering bill to be passed were low. Many conflicts exist between the House and Senate, including regulation fees and types of sports to be wagered on.
Eventually, H.3974 was formed in July, which had some aspects of H.70. Amendments through bill H.3977 would be proposed days later. These amendments would be adopted unanimously into H.3993. That bill would pass overwhelmingly by a 156-to-3 margin in the House.
Massachusetts Sports Betting: What To Watch
Although sports betting in Massachusetts hasn’t been passed yet, chances are high that major developments will progress throughout 2021. There’s a chance that sports wagering could be possible in early 2022.
Specifically, sports betting has a champion in Sen. Brendan Crighton, who has fought for legal sports betting in the state for several years. The legislation on the table now will include requirements like an application fee of $10 million for each operator, a 15% revenue tax for both online and retail operations, and bans on collegiate betting surrounding teams from Massachusetts.
Sports betting enthusiasts should watch for news concerning House Bill 3993 and Senate Bill 269. H.3993 was passed by the House with an overwhelming 156-3 vote. In comparison, S.269 has significantly higher licensing fees and tax rates. There would also be a limit of six mobile betting operators and no wagering on amateur and collegiate events.
A $25 million equine center was proposed in August to revive live horse racing events in Massachusetts. The Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center would also offer retail and online sportsbook wagering. The last live horse racing event took place at Suffolk Down in the summer of 2019. Success for the new venue would certainly be determined by sports betting legalization.
Governor Baker urged further movement in sports betting legalization at the beginning of the 2021 NFL season. In a tweet welcoming back the New England Patriots, Baker said “it’s time to act” and the state “is losing out to many of [their] neighbors on this one.”
There aren’t any guarantees of sports betting legalization (let alone launches) in 2021. In October, Senate president Karen Spilka told The Patriot Ledger that Senate Ways and Means Committee “is looking at” sports betting and further discussion “will depend upon bandwidth and how it stands.”
Timeline Of Massachusetts’s 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 Governor Charlie 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; Another bill, S.269, would limit mobile operators and exclude collegiate-level betting
- 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 next year
Massachusetts Sportsbooks – Coming Soon
Although sportsbooks don’t currently operate within Massachusetts, several sportsbook operators do provide daily fantasy sports. Beyond those companies, we are confident that several big sportsbook names will seek licensure in Massachusetts due to the high-profit industry that is likely bubbling beneath the surface. Let’s take a look at some of the most likely sportsbook operators to come to this state.
DraftKings is an obvious choice for several reasons. For one, this operator is a big sportsbook provider in most legal sportsbooks states in the US. For another, DraftKings’ headquarters is located in Boston. DraftKings also already offers daily fantasy sports.
All of these factors combined make it seem likely that the operator will pursue licensure if and when sports betting is legalized.
Fortunately, sports bettors will find a lot to like about this book, such as a robust mobile app and special mobile-only betting pools they can access on their iPhones or Android devices. The app is known for its player-friendly odds and deep betting markets.
DraftKings is one of the industry leaders for these reasons and more, such as a very generous deposit match opening bonus that is potentially worth up to $1000, plus a $50 free bet when new users sign up and deposit $5.
You’d be wise to keep your eye on BetMGM as well. This budding sportsbook giant is looking to expand all across the eastern seaboard and offers a minimalist mobile app that’s easy to navigate and understand, even for newcomers to the habit.
BetMGM offers good betting markets and odds across the board, plus in-play betting. It offers live stream betting plus a solid rewards program that will make it a favorite for people who like to pick a single sportsbook on which to spend most of their time.
Formerly under the William Hill brand, Caesars may also try to launch in Massachusetts sometime in 2021 or 2022. It benefits from very deep and varied betting markets such as soccer, rugby, and cricket.
But it’s also a good choice for American-based sports lovers. It offers a good deposit match opening bonus, an intuitive mobile app, and live streaming if you want to catch your favorite horseraces and place in-the-moment wagers using Caesar’s streamlined interface.
BetRivers may be a likely sportsbook to launch in Massachusetts as well. It’s a relatively young sportsbook, having only started two years ago. But it’s a quality platform through and through, featuring player-friendly odds and a mobile-optimized interface that makes navigating to various menus or functions quick and easy.
The app offers a small but worthwhile opening bonus and good betting markets for most major professional sports leagues, like baseball, basketball, and football. It’s not the best when it comes to international betting markets, but that’s an overall minor downside. You’ll also be able to participate in live streaming and in-play betting should you choose to place wagers in the middle of a big game.
FanDuel is almost as likely to launch in Massachusetts as DraftKings, as it also offers daily fantasy sports to Massachusetts residents. Furthermore, it has one of the best mobile apps in the industry, which offers live streaming and in-play betting alongside special promotional odds opportunities on special game days.
The app, furthermore, offers a generous opening bonus worth up to $1000 for new account owners. FanDuel’s betting market depth and league variety are extremely good, and players will be able to find betting pools for all their favorite American professional sports plus plenty of international or niche sports.
Massachusetts Gambling FAQs
Yes. There are currently three open casinos in Massachusetts, one of which is slots only. A fourth is currently being constructed.
All of the currently open casinos are owned by private companies. Native American tribes in Massachusetts are currently pursuing legal efforts to finish a casino that has already begun construction.
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 using mobile platforms. You can see if you win using online sites, however.
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. Therefore, you also don’t need to worry about identity theft or other digital threats.