Massachusetts Legislators Talk Sports Betting Launch, Mixed Opinions Ensue 

On Oct. 5, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) met to discuss the launch timeline of the recently legalized sports betting market. While nothing was nailed down, the group discussed a potential retail sports betting launch in January followed by the launch of mobile sports betting in February or thereafter. This was decidedly the “most aggressive” path in legalizing, which means there will be no sports betting in Massachusetts in 2022. 

Oct. 6 Discussions

MGC Executive Director Karen Wells presented the commissioners with a rough timeline: “this is not a definitive timeline,” Wells said. “This is a tool for discussion.”

Commissioners were split in said discussion, which eventually produced no vote on any launch date and resulted in tabling the discussion to later this week. Commissioners Bradford Hill and Jordan Maynard want Bay Staters to be able to bet on the Super Bowl on February 12. 

“We need to be pushing for a Category 1 (retail launch) to be open for the Super Bowl,” said Hill. He wants to see mobile sports betting available for March Madness. As does Maynard who said “I would put the work in myself.”

“We’re crazy if we think that people aren’t going to be placing wagers in Massachusetts for the Super Bowl, for March Madness,” Maynard added. He noted that if sports betting is not launched by then, Massachusetts residents will either drive north or south to place bets or bet illegally, all of which are a matter of “public safety.” 

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said she has “some reservations” on a “date-determinative” launch. Both O’Brien and Commissioner Nakisha Skinner are against “compressing” the launch process. “I just need to understand the rationale for why there is being this compressed timeline advanced as opposed to a reasonable timeline by which the team can get this done.”

With the conflicting opinions of her commissioners becoming increasingly obvious, MCG chair Cathy Judd-Stein said she’s “very concerned about the rate of our decision-making.”

Wells added, “there are jurisdictions that have been at it for a year. We don’t want to be that jurisdiction.” 

Maryland, for example, legalized online sports betting in November 2020 and now, almost two years later, there are still no legal sportsbooks available in Maryland. 

Massachusetts Sports Betting Background

Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker signed the sports betting bill into law on August 10 after Massachusetts legislators passed it on Aug. 1. The bill allows for 15 online sports betting operators in the state. 

Retail casinos MGM Springfield, Wynn Bet’s Encore Boston Harbor, and Barstool’s Plainridge Park received two online skins each. They are among those that could open in Massachusetts as early as February, according to the preliminary timeline. Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park also each received one online skin. This leaves seven “untethered” online licenses that the MGC will award to whom they choose. Forty-two companies have expressed interest in obtaining a Massachusetts sports betting license. 

Retail sportsbooks will be taxed at 15% upon launch while mobile sportsbooks will be subject to a 20% tax. 

Mia Fowler is a graduate of Chapman University where she studied business marketing and journalism and played on the women’s soccer team. Following her 16-year journey with soccer, she started writing for Lineups.com. She specifically enjoys analysis of the NFL.

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