Legal sports betting is on the way in Massachusetts! Bay State residents can start placing wagers at retail locations starting on January 31st. Online sports betting will follow soon after, though no date is set for launch just yet. Will online casino gambling get approved any time soon? What about online poker?
The answer to the latter two questions is that there is nothing working towards approval of either right now. The standard pattern seen all across the country now is that sports betting gets legalized first then analysis of the rollout takes place before any further approvals. Online casinos come next, if at all, followed potentially by online poker.
Only six states have legalized online poker so far. They are Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan. Even though it is legal in West Virginia, no one can play there yet as no online poker site operates. The other five states minus Pennsylvania have signed onto the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) which allows players in those states to sit at a table with each other online. West Virginia’s population is too small to support online poker in practicality, thus they need to join MSIGA or another compact, perhaps with Pennsylvania. Massachusetts is bigger than West Virginia, but still probably not large enough to sustain a vibrant online poker community, so they will ultimately need to join up somewhere as well
Will There Be Poker After Legal Massachusetts Online Sportsbooks?
Legalized online poker is far away, but online sports betting is heading to the Bay State very soon. Massachusetts sportsbooks will all offer generous welcome bonuses, often first bet free bet insurance. Sign up, deposit and place a wager. If it hits, just collect the winnings! If it loses, the sportsbooks make up the loss with risk free bets equal in value to the amount lost on the first bet. There is usually a maximum of $1000 attached. Some sportsbooks alternatively offer a $200 free bet simply for signing up, depositing as little as $10 and wagering just $1. In either case, make sure to check the exact terms as some books have expiration dates on the free bets and also may allocate them in tranches.
Governor Charlie Baker signed the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act into law on August 10th, 2022, setting the wheels in motion for legalized sports betting. The law, officially H5164, provided for 15 sports betting licenses. Eight of the licenses are reserved for retail locations such as casinos or racetracks. There are currently two full casinos in the state, MGM Springfield and Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor. There is also a racino, Penn Gaming’s Plainridge Park Casino, that offers slots only.
The other seven sports betting licenses are up for competitive bids from online operators. 39 hopefuls submitted applications to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by the October 17th 2022 deadline. The MGC recently approved Barstool Sportsbook for online betting, joining BetMGM, Caesars and WynnBet across the finish line. DraftKings and FanDuel already have a DFS presence in the Bay State and will likely get in the game either via the other three online spots or a partnership with a physical property.
Other Sports Betting Law Provisions
There are many other provisions in the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act. Bay State residents may not wager on in-state college teams, except when they are in tournaments. That tournament exception is not a huge carveout right now as Boston College is the only Power 5 college football team in the state and they do not appear likely to hit the College Football Playoff any time soon, even after it expands to 12 teams. BC and other hoops teams can always make it to March Madness, but none figure to draw huge betting handles on their games anyway. Pro sports dominate in Massachusetts.
The sportsbooks will have many options to fund accounts, but credit cards will not be among them as the law prohibits it. Books provide for some combination of bank transfers, PayPal, prepaid cards like Play+, E-wallet sites like Skrill and e-checks, so there will be no lack of options.
Massachusetts will tax the online sports betting operators at a 20% rate, while the retail sportsbooks will pay 15%. The state will taxes individual gambling winnings at the same 5% rate residents pay on ordinary incomes, as detailed here.
What to Wager On
Bay State residents can bet on anything the sportsbooks typically list, with the exception of college sports as mentioned above.
Boston is the winter sports capital of the world in 2023. The Bruins lead the NHL standings while the Celtics pace the NBA. Both are serious title threats, with the “B’s” priced as Stanley Cup favorites at +500 at DraftKings and the “C’s” top dog in the NBA at +380.
Needless to say bettors will find deep spread, total, money line, puck line and prop markets on all their regular season and future playoff games.
The Red Sox are not projected to have a big season in 2023, but it was a similar story in 2021 and they made it all the way to the American League Championship series. They are priced at +7000 to win the World Series, +3000 to take the American League and +1600 in the AL East.
The Patriots are also in a bit of a downswing, but NFL wagering booms no matter the quality of the team and Pats markets will remain popular. Tom Brady is not walking in that room….probably, though he is a free agent.
Online casinos and online poker do not figure to get legalized in Massachusetts in 2023. Even if/when a bill passes and the governor signs, it still takes time to hash out the specifics. Sports betting took just under half a year from bill signing to betting launch and that is fast compared to Ohio, which took over a year. Until then, enjoy and hopefully profit from legal sports betting as the smoother it goes, the more probable state lawmakers start looking at online casinos and poker to add more to the revenue pool.