March 10 Launch Proposal
At a public meeting on Feb. 9, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Karen Wells proposed a March 10 launch date for online sports betting in Massachusetts. This would launch the market in advance of the NCAA March Madness tournament, which was the commission’s initial launch goal with online sports betting. The tournament begins on March 14.
“The suggestion is we do it that day because it gives us the weekend if there are any issues before March Madness starts,” Wells told the commissioners. “And then there’s a Monday where we could have a commission meeting, if necessary, if there are any issues before the big tournament starts.”
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 9, 2023
Temporary license approval for the 11 online sportsbooks is scheduled for Feb. 23. In addition, these operators will have to undergo testing on their technology via Gaming Laboratories International (GLI).
The launch “is dependent on the quality of the internal control submissions that the applicants have submitted, and their responsiveness to issues brought up by GLI,” Wells said in the meeting.
So far, the applicants have been compliant with these contingencies, but if that changes, a staggered launch is also possible.
“If the applicants can’t respond or do not respond to needed modifications to their internal control submissions, that potentially impacts the timeline,” Wells said. “And we do have the option of launching some but not all of the operators.”
Online Sportsbooks Coming to MA
10 operators plan to go live with their online sportsbook platform on launch day in Massachusetts (March 10 or otherwise). Of those, five have entrance via a tethered license to a state casino:
- BetMGM (MGM Springfield)
- Caesars (Encore Boston Harbor)
- Fanatics (Plainridge Park Casino)
- Barstool (Plainridge Park Casino)
- WynnBet (Encore Boston)
Retail sports betting launched at MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park, and Encore, on Jan. 31.
The other six approved sportsbooks acquired untethered online licenses in the state:
- Bally Bet
With the exception of Betway, which plans to launch later in 2023, these sportsbooks will also launch on the first day of online sports betting.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 6, 2023
Retail Sports Betting Has a Bumpy Start
While retail sports betting has been up and running for over a week now, it has not been without some hitches. At the Feb. 9 meeting, the commission also discussed violations made by Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor in the first days of retail betting in the state.
These two casinos both took wagers on in-state college basketball teams, a wager that is prohibited in Massachusetts unless that team is involved in a tournament featuring more than four teams (i.e. March Madness). The Investigations and Enforcement Bureau is investigating the case.
Plainridge Park reportedly took wagers on the Merrimack men’s college basketball game for seven hours while Encore took wagers on a Boston College women’s basketball game for five hours. Both instances were self-reported by the casinos.
Encore Gives First Glimpse At Numbers
Despite the bump in the road, Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings confirmed an otherwise successful launch for Encore Boston Harbor during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call.
“We were also pleased to launch retail sports betting at Encore Boston Harbor last week, averaging a little over 0.5 million a day in handle over the first six days, which is about 80% of the average daily handle at Wynn Las Vegas,” Billings said.