The Boston Bruins control the Eastern Conference of the NHL. The Celtics do the same in the NBA.
Only one of them is winning the state of Massachusetts right now when it comes to sports betting interest.
“The Boston Celtics have definitely been a larger volume for us,” Dave Fiddler, the director of race and sports at MGM Springfield, told PlayMA.
There’s definitely a fervor for hockey in general and the Bruins, specifically, in Massachusetts, Fiddler said. But the broader demographic appeal of the NBA compared to the NHL — evidenced also in everything from television ratings to franchise values to player salaries — brings more Celtics and basketball handle into the building, he noted.
Celtics, Bruins Success Good for Casino
The house isn’t rooting against all those fans-turned-sports bettors pulling into the parking lot, though.
“The reality is that even if we may get beat on both teams, it’s great for business because people are coming in and they’re not just going to bet the Celtics,” Fiddler said. “They’ll wager on other stuff, they’ll stay, they’ll have drinks. Maybe they play slot machines. We hope the Bruins and the Celtics are there because they’ll be driving traffic into the sportsbook.”
The liability, Fiddler said, is sizable, though. But even with prolonged success for the Celtics and Bruins, he predicts things will be OK at the shop.
“It’s not like we won’t be able to turn the lights on,” Fiddler said.
Gambling companies operating in Massachusetts were perhaps fortunate that sports betting wasn’t legal during the Patriots’ run of six Super Bowl victories in two mini-dynasties in the early 2000s and as recently as 2019. It stands to reason the locals would have hammered New England for emotional and financial reasons, just like Eagles bettors flooding Pennsylvania sportsbooks with around $83.4 million in Super Bowl bets last week.
In 2019, Rhode Island sportsbooks lost $2.5 million when the Patriots won and covered in the Super Bowl against the Rams. That state has only two retail and one mobile option, but the pound-for-pound hit was significant for taxing authorities.
Massachusetts vs. Other East Coast Properties
But Springfield doesn’t rue a wave of bets on the Celtics and Bruins, Fiddler said. The retail and eventual mobile handle in Massachusetts is co-mingled geographically, with BetMGM Massachusetts and several other East Coast MGM properties.
Because MGM separates its operations, Massachusetts sports bettors could pound Celtics and Bruins to a “slightly different” number than those west of the Mississippi River, Fiddler said.
“But they don’t try to fade their local, because it’s so global, there is so much sharp action out there,” he added, “that if you put up a price that’s wrong, you’re going to get buyback immediately on the other side.”
It’s a “good liability” right now, Fiddler said. But by March, Massachusetts sports bettors won’t need to visit one of the state’s three casinos to place bets on the final weeks of the NBA season or what figures to be the Bruins’ Stanley Cup push.
How Will Mobile Sports Betting Affect MA Casinos?
Mobile and online betting is scheduled to begin in Massachusetts on March 10.
Fiddler estimates business at the Springfield sportsbook could decrease by as much as 60% when mobile wagering launches. That’s because much of the retail business so far has been smaller wager amounts made at kiosks.
“And those are the kind of people, they’ll place that (bet) from the comfort of their phone, from the comfort of the couch,” Fiddler said, “which is what I would be doing.
“But in terms of the larger cash wagers and stuff, they’re always going to probably come through the window. People feel more comfortable with that.”
Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino did not provide insight to PlayMA for this report.