Lawyer Doubts ‘Saturated’ Massachusetts Market Can Support More Sportsbooks

Written By Matthew Bain on August 28, 2023
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Right now, there are eight online sportsbook options for bettors in Massachusetts.

By January, in theory, there will be 10 — if Bally Bet’s re-branded re-launch lands in the Bay State, and if United Kingdom-based Betway holds true to its word and launches a Massachusetts product in January 2024.

Ten options for the 16th-most-populated state in the US feels like plenty. Especially for a low-margin business.

However, Massachusetts law allows for up to 15 online sportsbooks. And that begs the question …

Will there ever actually be 15 MA online sports betting apps?

One prominent expert in gaming law, who is based in Boston, told PlayMA she has her doubts.

“The market is relatively saturated in Massachusetts currently,” said Katherine Baker, a partner at national law firm Nelson Mullins and Chair of the firm’s Gaming Industry Group. “Given the slim margins of this business and the domination by big players in the industry, new or small sports betting apps that obtain licensure in the future are likely to face profitability challenges in Massachusetts.”

There just may not be enough revenue to go around

Massachusetts bettors currently have these right options to choose from:

And, again, by January 2024, Bally Bet and Betway are expected to join the fray.

DraftKings owned 50.3% of the market in July, followed by FanDuel at 30%. That means the other six sportsbook operators in Massachusetts split 19.7% of the MA sportsbook revenue in July. That may be fine for companies like BetMGM and Caesars, with portfolios so diversified and successful via multiple mediums they’ll make your head spin.

But for other companies that may not have as much wiggle room — and that includes most small- to mid-sized sportsbook operators — that type of return on investment may not be worth it.

What spots are left?

Still, if they want to try … there are five mobile spots up for grabs.

  • One license tied to Raynham Park
  • One license tied to Suffolk Downs
  • One license tied to Plainridge Park Casino
  • One license tied to MGM Springfield
  • One standalone license

“For new sports betting operators, especially those untethered to an existing gaming licensee,” Baker told PlayMA, “I would expect more scrutiny, but still a relatively smooth path to licensure if the applicant cooperates with the regulator’s investigation and demonstrates the tenets of suitability (integrity and financial responsibility) mandated by statute.  That being said, the MGC will take a hard look at all license applicants and is particularly serious about consumer protection and responsible gaming.”

Things got off the ground slower than expected

When asked if anything about the Massachusetts sports betting industry had surprised her so far, Baker said she thought the Bay State would have legalized sports betting sooner than it did.

“Massachusetts sat patiently on the sidelines (after PASPA was repealed), studying several proposals for legalization, meeting with stakeholders, researching sports wagering laws in other states, and holding public hearings,” she said. “There was a groundswell of support for legalization from industry stakeholders and legislators (primarily on the House side) and it seemed like the economic conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic were going to push the bill over the edge.

“Instead, it took another two years.”

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Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain is currently the Content Manager at Catena Media’s national online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the News Content Manager at Catena Media, overseeing news content for the network’s highest-priority regional sites. Massachusetts is a young, promising gambling market, so PlayMA was one of his focuses. Prior to joining Catena Media in 2022, Matthew won 10 statewide and national journalism awards during six years as a reporter and editor for the USA TODAY Network. Matthew's work primarily appeared in the Des Moines Register, but he was also featured in the Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and USA TODAY. Throughout his career, Matthew's bylines have also appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seattle Times, and Orange County Register.

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