Massachusetts Retail Sportsbooks Could Launch Before Online Betting

Written By Alec Cunningham on August 3, 2022 - Last Updated on August 23, 2022
Massachusetts Sports Betting Launch

Legal sports betting in Massachusetts could soon finally be a reality now that a new bill is being passed to Gov. Charlie Baker for approval.

If all goes as planned, both online and retail sports betting will soon exist within the state. The two may not launch on the same date, though.

Given the existing gambling environment in the Bay State, and a look around the region and country, it’s possible you could lay bets in person before you can do it on your phone.

Massachusetts casinos have been preparing for sportsbooks

Legislators extended the deadline and went into August to pass a Massachusetts sports betting bill. The compromise was sent Monday morning to Baker’s desk for an anticipated approval.

Once approved, regulations will ultimately allow for 5 retail sports betting locations within the state.

Three of these will exist within MA’s trio of brick-and-mortar casinos:

  • MGM Springfield
  • Encore Boston Harbor
  • Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville

The other two will find a home within Massachusetts’ two simulcast horse racing locations — Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park.

At MGM, a sports lounge next to the casino floor is ready to become a sportsbook.

According to a statement from President Chris Kelley after Monday’s passage, MGM Springfield will be ready.

“We are thrilled the state Legislature reached an agreement to create a safe, regulated and legalized sports betting environment for Bay State residents and look forward to Governor Baker signing the bill. This new industry will allow Massachusetts to repatriate the revenue and jobs currently being lost to neighboring states and the illegal betting market. We look forward to providing local sports fans an immersive, world-class sports watching and betting experience in our sports lounge along with a VIP viewing area within TAP Sports Bar.”

Encore Boston Harbor has not detailed its sports betting plans. But Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings, who has touted the inherent advantage of having a retail partner in the state, said WynnBet will be part of the online sports betting market in Massachusetts, noting:

The decision to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts is welcome news to sports fans who will soon be able to legally wager on sports, as well at the state, which will reap the benefits of incremental jobs and tax revenue. Our next step is to work with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to apply to provide premium sports betting opportunities for our guests in the WynnBET Sports Bar at Encore Boston Harbor and on the WynnBET app.

Massachusetts online sports betting could take more time

Since retail gambling locations already exist in Massachusetts, the introduction of retail sports betting will be that much simpler.

Online sports betting, on the other hand, will likely take longer to see the light of day. No form of online gambling currently exists in Massachusetts, requiring the state to lay a certain amount of groundwork first. A year is generally a good guess for a typical timeframe between when a law passes and online bets are placed.

Up to 15 mobile sportsbooks will ultimately be permitted to operate in Massachusetts, which should make for a relatively lush environment for bettors. It also will call for an extensive licensing process.

The state’s three casinos will each be given the ability to incorporate two online operators. The two simulcast racing centers will each receive one license each. The remaining licenses will be reserved for seven untethered mobile operators who do not share an association with any of the state’s brick-and-mortar gambling locations.

Previous sports betting launches nationwide

Although most states eventually offer both in-person and mobile betting, it’s far from unusual for in-person sports betting to debut before its online counterpart.

Maryland sports betting, for instance, exists in brick-and-mortar locations only. Although sports betting launched in December 2021, players have yet to take part in mobile betting.

In other states:

  • Illinois and Michigan launched retail sportsbooks in March 2020. Both later launched online sportsbooks — Illinois a few months later and Michigan nearly a year later.
  • Indiana, which had the fastest law-to-launch online period of any state, still OK’d retail before online books.
  • In Pennsylvania, retail sportsbooks opened in November 2018 and online books opened in May the next year.

However, there are examples of universal launch dates like Ohio, which will launch online, retail and kiosk betting on Jan. 1, 2023. It’s possible Massachusetts could put retail and online sportsbooks on the same starting line.

MGC spokesperson: ‘Too early to tell’ on Mass. sports betting launch

Massachusetts Gaming Commission spokesperson Tom Mills says it’s too early to tell what the Bay State’s initial sports betting environment might look like:

“We are in the process of reviewing the legislation that passed early Monday ourselves. Over the last several years we have been monitoring legislation that has designated the MGC as regulator of a Massachusetts sports wagering industry, and staff have been doing their due diligence in order to proceed swiftly should a proposal be signed into law. The MGC will begin discussions related to this piece of legislation at our next public meeting, which will take place on Thursday at 9 a.m.”

The MGC’s upcoming public meeting will be livestreamed and available to view via their YouTube channel Thursday morning.

And as always, PlayMA will be covering the proceedings closely. So check back here for the latest news and updates on MA sports betting as things progress.

Photo by Photographerlondon
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Alec Cunningham

Alec Cunningham currently serves as the managing editor of several sites within the Play Network including PlayMA and PlayOhio. She has been covering the US gambling market since 2020, when she began as a PlayTenn contributor. She has covered countless online sports betting and casino legislation topics and now specializes in responsible gambling and gambling addiction recovery. In 2022, she served as a panelist at the All-American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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