Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker officially signed a bill Wednesday to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts.
Now that a final thumbs up has been received, sportsbooks can soon begin applying for a license within the state.
More details on the process should emerge on Thursday morning when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission holds a public meeting.
Massachusetts governor signs sports betting bill into law
Massachusetts sports betting is now a reality thanks to Gov. Baker, who was expected to sign on to the legislation after state lawmakers reached a compromise last week.
“Our administration first filed legislation to legalize sports wagering in the Commonwealth several years ago, and I am glad to be able to sign this bill into law today,” Baker said in a statement. “We appreciate the dedication and compromise that the Legislature demonstrated on this issue, and we look forward to supporting the work of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on the responsible implementation of the law over the next several months.”
Sen. Eric Lesser, one of the bill’s primary proponents, issued the following statement upon word of the news:
“After a four-year process, sports betting is now legal in Massachusetts! I want to thank Governor Baker for signing this legislation, as well as my colleagues who worked so hard to make it happen. This new law will give residents new ways to engage with sports, generate new jobs and investment, and includes some of the strongest consumer and player safeguards in the country. I’m confident this law will be a model for other states, and I look forward to seeing its full implementation in the months ahead. I’m proud to have been a part of the team that worked to deliver sports betting in Massachusetts.”
Baker had 10 days to sign the bill following the Legislature’s last-minute approval Aug. 1. Traditionally, he’s been a supporter of the idea, going so far as to file sports betting bills of his own in the past. He waited until the ninth day, however, to give his thumbs up on this version of the legislation.
With this bill, Massachusetts will receive a 20% tax on all mobile sports betting, along with a 15% tax on in-person wagering.
And although sports fans won’t be able to wager on Massachusetts-based college teams the majority of the year, they’ll still be able to bet on all their favorite teams come tournament time.
Mass. sports betting could launch by Super Bowl
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met last week to get a jumpstart on potential regulatory details pending Baker’s official signature.
It remains unclear as to how soon sportsbooks could be live in Massachusetts. Lawmakers were initially hoping for a fall launch, though more recent timelines suggest the launch process could realistically take until early 2023 to complete.
Nonetheless, Massachusetts football fans could still very well see the launch of sports betting before the end of NFL season.
Retail sportsbooks could also open sooner at the state’s three casinos and two simulcast horse betting facilities, as the commission discussed soon scheduling a meeting with casino officials last week.
Will retail or online sports betting come first?
Online sports betting in Massachusetts could take longer to see the light of day. That’s because additional regulatory steps are needed to launch online wagering in the state.
The official licensing process couldn’t begin until Baker gave his official approval. But interested applicants were encouraged to begin gathering all potentially necessary documentation in order to expedite the process.
During the meeting last week, state gaming commissioners were presented with a working document that included about a 5-month window from applications being released to the time the initial process would finalize. However, those timelines could shift in the coming weeks.
Statements from Massachusetts Gaming Commission after bill signing
The MGC issued statements after Wednesday’s signing:
Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said:
“On behalf of my fellow commissioners and the staff of the MGC, we appreciate the confidence the Legislature and the Governor have in naming us as regulator of this new industry. For the past several years, we have been monitoring sports wagering legislation and taking appropriate steps to prepare for our potential role. As soon as this week we will be working to understand the landscape of interest in operator licensure as we move forward with this process. I appreciate the work currently underway by my fellow Commissioners and the entire MGC team. We are committed to ensuring the integrity of sports wagering in the Commonwealth and are looking forward to engaging stakeholders in an inclusive and transparent process.”
Executive Director Karen Wells added:
“I appreciate the support of the Chair and the Commissioners of the MGC as we work to implement sports wagering. As the Chair has mentioned publicly, a great deal of work has already been done by our team in anticipation of sports wagering becoming legal in Massachusetts. This includes identifying over 200 potential regulations, adopting a framework to utilize industry-recognized technical standards, establishing an infrastructure to investigate and license applicants, initiating the hiring of a Chief of Sports Wagering, and scheduling public meetings. Now that we have a law that defines our responsibilities as regulator, we will work with our stakeholders to swiftly stand up this new industry with a focus on integrity, player safety and consumer protection.”