Sports Betting Legal Expert Weighs In On The Industry In Massachusetts

Written By Cheryl Coward on July 14, 2023 - Last Updated on August 8, 2023
Sports betting legal expert Kevin Conroy shares his thoughts on the sports betting industry in Massachusetts thus far, from

With several months gone by since sports wagering launched in Massachusetts, experts can begin making informed reflections on the sports betting industry in the state.

While there have been some hiccups, Massachusetts sports betting apps are off to a strong start.

Legal expert Kevin C. Conroy provided PlayMA with some insights on the landscape of sports betting in the Commonwealth.

Conroy is a partner at the Boston-based Foley Hoag law firm with expertise in state regulatory matters. He helped guide several companies through the sports betting application process.

Here is what he had to say:

Success from top operators DraftKings and FanDuel

DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the sports betting market in Massachusetts.

“The early returns, not surprisingly, have DraftKings and FanDuel doing very, very well in Massachusetts,” Conroy said.

In May, Boston-based DraftKings had 49.8% of the market share. FanDuel came in second at 30.5%.

Under the state’s sports betting law, up to 15 online sports betting apps can exist. However, only seven online sportsbooks are active right now. Fanatics Sportsbook has a license, but is only in the beta stage of its product rollout.

With a relatively small amount of operators, we haven’t seen anything unusual — on the good or bad end — with Massachusetts sportsbook promos.

Established operators have big leg up on competition

Conroy was succinct when asked about the possibility of others catching up to established operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars. He commented that the big players “have such a leg up on so many others.”

“It is very difficult for new online players to come into the industry and do well — specifically in Massachusetts — and I think that has kept some operators away,” Conroy told PlayMA. “I think there’s also a feeling that this is a relatively high tax state and that’s going to hurt the market. So, I’m not optimistic that we’re going to get (to 15) in the short term. I think over time we might, but I think that’s going to take a while.

“It’s going to take some new players to come into this industry. I think also the trend right now is that we’re seeing consolidation in the industry. We’re not necessarily seeing expansion, and so I think it’s going to take a while.”

Impact of NIL on sports betting

The onset of the name, image and likeness (NIL) policies by states and the NCAA now means college students can cultivate their personal brands and earn money without losing their college eligibility.

Conroy’s take on the effect of NIL on sports betting is that it will increase interest in college sports, especially football, which in turn will be a positive for sports betting.

“I think there’s just so much interest in college football,” he said. “And, I think part of it now is the NIL, and the fact that these athletes can market themselves and be marketed. I think that’s only going to help the interest in in college sports.”

While Massachusetts residents can’t bet on in-state Division I college football teams, they can place wagers on programs outside of the state. If a Massachusetts college football team made the College Football Playoff, however, it would be legal to bet on it.

Performance of the MA Gaming Commission

Overall, Conroy conveyed that he thinks the Massachusetts Gaming Commission did an excellent job getting sports betting off the ground.

“You know, I give the gaming commission a fair amount of credit for setting up sports betting and getting going as quickly as it did,” he said. “That was a very hard undertaking. This law was only signed into law last August.”

He said implementation was at a “lightning pace” even while some commissioners had concerns that the pace was moving too quickly. MA sports betting was legalized in August 2022. Retail sports betting launched in January 2023 while online betting went live March 10.

“So far, I think the enforcement has been strong,” Conroy said. “I think they’ve put together a good system in the Commonwealth and I think the operators are generally happy with how this is working.”

Interim executive director incoming

The future will also see a new face among the commissioners. Executive Director Karen Wells is stepping down this month. Earlier this week, the MGC appointed Todd Grossman as interim director.

“I think we’re interested to see a new executive director at the commission,” Conroy said. “I think Karen Wells did a fantastic job over her 10 years at the gaming commission. I think specifically the way she and the staff set up this sports betting framework in Massachusetts has been great. I don’t think we’re going to see big changes coming soon with a new executive director, but that’ll be something that we’ll be watching as well.”

Retail sports betting outlook

When it comes to revenue, retail sports betting at Massachusetts casinos lags far behind in the state.

“We’ve still got this open question about how successful retail sports betting is going to be,” Conroy said. ” … I still think it’s pretty early.”

MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino all began offering retail sports betting in January. However, Plainridge Park’s facility is a temporary one as the operator plans to open a Barstool Sportsbook some time this summer.

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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a Staff Writer for PlayMA with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She's a die-hard women's basketball fanatic and founded the website as a result of that passion. She has previous experience covering gambling and sports betting in California, including extensive coverage of the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 election battle.

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