Massachusetts sports betting is off to a strong start, but what does the future hold?
The industry has been live for six months, and now industry experts can begin to make informed predictions for what the future of sports betting in Massachusetts might look like.
Legal expert Kevin C. Conroy provided PlayMA with some insights on how he sees the industry shaking out in the Commonwealth.
A partner at the Boston-based Foley Hoag law firm, Conroy is an expert in state regulatory matters and has helped guide several companies through the sports betting application process.
Here are his thoughts:
Expecting big numbers for football betting
Massachusetts sports fans have been able to bet on sports for six months. MA bettors have already wagered more than $1.9 billion, and Conroy isn’t surprised to see DraftKings and FanDuel getting most of the market share.
However, Conroy’s insights on the future of the industry make it clear that the outlook won’t be complete without the state experiencing an entire football season under the new sports wagering legislation.
“First, we have not gone through a football season with sports betting in Massachusetts,” he told PlayMA. “We just had the championship games and the Super Bowl last season, but we haven’t had a full football season. So, I think we really need to see a full football season to understand what kind of market this is going to be like in Massachusetts.
“So far, it’s been, I think, promising. And I think the revenues have been strong. But until we have that football season, I think we’re all still wondering what this market is going to be like.”
Conroy added that Massachusetts is a “very pro-focused market,” and he expects big numbers to roll in from NFL betting in Massachusetts.
Questions on advertising
Advertising is one of the biggest issues that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission grappled with in its public meetings in the months leading up to the launch of sports betting. Commissioners wanted to make sure that operators refrain from targeting those who cannot bet legally — residents under 21.
As a result, Conroy commented that in Massachusetts, “regulations dealing with under 21 and preventing advertising to those under 21 … are some of the strictest in the country.”
He also added that the advertising rules are rather vague.
“One of the provisions says that operators need to use all available controls in order to prevent advertising to those under 21,” he said. “And that’s very vague. What is it? What does it mean, all available controls?”
Possible changes in the future
The vagueness of the rules is a big concern.
“There are a lot of terms that are not defined,” he said. “I wish that their regulations had provided for some more ways to clearly comply with the regulations, because I think the companies would be interested in doing that. So, I’m watching that very closely, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the gaming commission proceeds.”
Conroy reiterated: “Massachusetts ended up with some of the strictest, if not the strictest, regulations in the country related to advertising.”
Advertising to pick up in fall
Given the uncertainty, questions on advertising enforcement may come up in the fall with the onset of football season.
“I think there’s an open question as to whether companies are going to be able to comply with these regulations in the way that the gaming commission might demand,” Conroy said. “And I think if the gaming commission takes a strict interpretation of these regulations, it’s going to be very hard to do advertising in a way that we’re used to in the sports betting industry.”