Will Massachusetts Online Sports Betting be a Focus of the State's Gambling Prevention?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 8, 2023 07:00 PM
Will Massachusetts Online Sports Betting be a Focus of the State's Gambling Prevention?

With legal online sports betting in Massachusetts debuting this week, the conversations surrounding its rollout are beginning to reach fever pitch. Promotional programs have flooded the market. Revenue projections are available in mass supply. College basketball betting advice is dominating airwaves in advance of March Madness. Licenses and compliance among odds providers are being finalized. And then, in the backdrop of it all, there's a discussion taking place about the impact Massachusetts online sports betting could have on gambling addiction inside the state.

To be sure, this is not unique to The Bay State. Gambling addiction and prevention are hot topics everywhere that sports betting has been legalized. The conversations don't stop after rollouts, either. They continue; they are unending.

This issue does, however, reach a fever pitch when legal online sports betting is set to be unveiled for the first time. Massachusetts is proving to be no exception. And yet, some are expressing concern that the state's gambling prevention programs are already slacking when it comes to addressing any consequences of Massachusetts online sports betting.

Why Massachusetts Online Sports Betting is Spurring So Much Talk About Gambling Addiction and Prevention

Like we have already noted, this subject matter comes with the territory. Legal sports betting rollouts always prominently feature discussions and debates on gambling addiction and prevention. 

Still, the conversations currently taking place in Massachusetts are striking a heavier tone. This isn't a state that's debuting legal gambling for the first time. On-site sportsbooks have already been open for a few months. More than that, Massachusetts has become increasingly reliant on the casino and state lottery business over the past 10 years or so.The legalization of online sports betting in Massachusetts will be an extension of what's already a robust market.

That has many concerned about the well-being of the state's gamblers. Especially because of how popular online sports betting has become. It is one thing to green light a state lottery. Ditto for opening casinos and on-site sportsbooks. Each of these activities inherently limits access by location.

Online sports betting creates no such barriers. It is ultra-accessible by design. Experts estimate that between 85 and 90 percent of all wagers taking place inside the United States this year will be submitted using mobile sportsbooks, according to CBS 10 in Boston. That represents a massive share of the market. It also suggests the legalization of online sports betting will dramatically increase the number of people gambling in general.

With that uptick in clientele comes an elevated risk of gambling addiction. So, naturally, you can understand why the importance of gambling prevention is among Massachusetts' primary focuses. Or is it?

Is Massachusetts Committed Enough to Gambling Prevention?

Many will push back against the idea that Massachusetts has made gambling prevention a "primary focus." And they might have a point. As CBS 10's Sam Dysdale noted in a recent article, the state doesn't seem openly prepared to discuss specifics of the issue.

"Director of the Office of Problem Gambling Services Victor Ortiz gave a presentation to the Public Health Council at its meeting on Wednesday, highlighting campaigns and services that the office has undertaken to help residents with gambling addictions.

"'Recently, we saw the act to regulate sports wagering in the commonwealth that now allows for sports wagering at the established resort casinos, along with an additional number of mobile platforms that are scheduled to launch this month, I believe in the next two days. So adding an additional layer of exposure to gambling activities as well."

This was the only time Ortiz mentioned online sports wagering during his speech. He did not elaborate on what programs would be expanded or created to help combat gambling addiction as a result of this rollout. Perhaps it was an innocent oversight. But it could be something more.

Remember: The implementation of Massachusetts sports betting has been anything but smooth. The state couldn't settle on a rollout date for the longest time. Some licenses still won't be approved or activated for a couple of months. And most recently, there was illegal college basketball activity in Massachusetts self-reported by multiple sportsbooks.

Time will Tell Whether the State is Prepared to Handle All Aspects of Massachusetts Online Sports Betting

Bettors don't have to worry about any of this delaying the debut of Massachusetts online sports betting. It will happen as scheduled. But it will be worth monitoring what comes next.

Numerous polls have shown a significant increase in calls placed to gambling addiction hotlines over the past few years, as legal sports betting in the United States becomes more common. Massachusetts will not be immune to this trend.

Officials can pretend the state will be. They can say that online sports betting was already happening. And they'll be partially right. Many Massachusetts residents no doubt registered with one of the highly reviewed online sportsbooks that allow anyone to set up an account. But there's no overstating what the general increase in access does to the market's customer base. There is a drastic difference between creating an off-shore account and being bombarded by advertisements from domestic sportsbooks across every imaginable platform—including television commercials, email promotions, billboards, website banners and videos, etc.

Other states have been dealt similar reality checks, particularly when it comes to the increase in underage gambling. Ohio, for instance, already needed to deal with sportsbooks inadvertently mass sending email advertisements to recipients under the age of 21. 

So, is Massachusetts prepared to handle every aspect of legal online sports betting, both the good and the potentially bad? We can't be sure. One way or another, though, we're going to find out.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one will work for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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