Massachusetts sports betting legalized in the 11th hour

MA Sports Betting Bill
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It took until the morning of Aug.1, but Massachusetts lawmakers reached a compromise on sports betting and got a bill across the finish line. Massachusetts is now the 36th state to legalize some form of sports betting.

Last Friday, it felt unlikely that the House and Senate could agree to terms. However, the two chambers reached an agreement that banned in-state college betting, save for when those teams are in a collegiate tournament. Additionally, the compromised tax rate is 15% on retail sports betting and 20% for online sports betting.

Breakdown of MA sports betting licenses

The bill, H5164, allows for up to 15 online licenses in addition to five retail sportsbooks at the three state casinos and two racetracks. Based upon partnerships, here is a look at who is guaranteed access to the state as well as what is available:

  • Encore Boston Harbor: Retail book, WynnBet + one additional mobile license
  • MGM Springfield: Retail book, BetMGM + one additional mobile license
  • Plainridge Park: Retail book, Barstool Sportsbook + one additional mobile license
  • Raynham Park: Retail book, one mobile license
  • Suffolk Downs: Retail book, one mobile license
  • Seven additional mobile-only licenses  

Major contenders like FanDuel and the Boston-based DraftKings will either need to team up with a land-based racetrack or casino or vie for one of the seven online licenses. With 12 online licenses up for grabs, the Massachusetts sports betting market will be one of the more restricted markets in the United States.

Online-only licenses will need to pay a $1 million upfront fee, which will go to the Public Health Trust Fund. All licensees will have to pay a $5 million fee for a five-year license.

Timeline for Massachusetts sports betting launch

The start of the NFL season is just a few weeks away, but some in Massachusetts believe it is possible to mobilize betting in that time. On the retail front, the likelihood of betting starting in September seems much more likely. Both MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor have already created spaces on property to house a sportsbook. If the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) can draft and adopt full regulations quickly, putting betting into play at the casinos would take relatively little time.

To mobilize online in that time would take longer. Potential licensees would need to be vetted for at least a temporary license in addition to the time it takes the MGC to adopt regulations.

Given the history of Massachusetts taking very small, deliberate, and timely steps toward sports betting, it seems overly optimistic to expect the state suddenly puts its foot on the gas pedal.

Nonetheless, operators are keen to get going. When asked about by SBC Americas about the new law, here was the response from North Grounsell, Vice President and General Manager for Plainridge Park Casino:

“We are very pleased that the Commonwealth has joined the ranks as one of 36 states to have legalized sports betting.  We look forward to working with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to open a retail sportsbook at Plainridge Park Casino and to launch our mobile app as soon as possible.”