WynnBet Unanimously Becomes First Licensed Massachusetts Online Sportsbook

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
WynnBet Unanimously Becomes First Licensed Massachusetts Online Sportsbook

The first on-site sports betting license in Massachusetts was recently awarded the Encore Boston Harbor casino. Now, a few weeks later, WynnBet has unanimously become the first licensed Massachusetts online sportsbook.

This decision comes in advance of the busiest gambling season throughout the United States. Sportsbooks—and the states who license them—are in line to make a killing thanks to NFL playoff betting and college football bowl season betting. But will the list of places to benefit from the hectic next few months include The Codfish State? Or does this latest news actually incite more questions than answers for sports betting in Massachusetts?

That interpretation might sound blasphemous at first reference. Isn't approving the first Massachusetts online sportsbook a good thing, after all? 

It sure is a good thing. But this decision also comes on the heels of a laborious and long process. How much longer will it take the state to award the rest of the licenses they're slated to give out? And more importantly, when will sports betting launch in Massachusetts? We still don't have the information. That, in turn, makes us wonder whether we're all in for another delay.

WynnBet is the First of Up to 15 Massachusetts Online Sportsbooks

After reviewing WynnBet's application, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously approved them to set up shop as an online sportsbook. That means their license was even easier to push through than the one given to Encore Boston Harbor. It isn't totally clear why. Encore Boston Harbor is also backed by a major company. Some have speculated Massachusetts is setting more stringent baselines for their on-site sportsbooks, which might explain why the WynnBet decision went uncontested.

Another factor: Massachusetts online sportsbook licenses will outnumber on-site locations, at least for the time being. 

The state plans to issue up to 15 online sportsbook licenses when all is said and done. Six of these companies will be required to partner up with one of the three local casinos.

As it just so happens, WynnBet will be partnering up with the Encore Boston Harbor casino. Given that this agreement was part of the proposal for both gaming operators, it's believed the deal helped Encore Boston Harbor get to the finish line faster than anyone else.

It isn't yet clear how many Massachusetts online sportsbooks will have betting licenses in time for the state's launch. Just because they can hand out up to 15 doesn't mean they will. Indeed, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was initially surprised it didn't receive more applications. But they probably shouldn't have been taken aback. They set a last-minute deadline for applications that even some of the larger gaming operators—including Encore—had trouble meeting. As a result, there have already been reports of Massachusetts extending the application deadline for select entrants. 

Still No Confirmed Date for Massachusetts Sports Betting Launch

Oh, and then there's also the little matter of the Massachusetts sportsbook launch itself.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission hasn't yet committed one. For the most part, "sometime in early 2023" has been the general party line issued. But that doesn't provide much clarity. Early 2023 could mean January. Or it could mean in the first half of the year, like around May.

Virtually everyone agrees that launching much later than January would be a disservice to Massachusetts sports betting. Stretching past February means the state misses out on revenue from the NFL and college football playoffs. That's a big deal. And you better believe people in Massachusetts won't just cease betting on the NFL or betting on college football. Plenty of neighboring states within driving offer legal sports betting right now. Many of the top reviewed online sportsbooks also already allow almost anyone in the United States to set up and service an account.

However, based on the amount of time the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is taking to review and approve each application so far, a clearer picture is starting to be painted. And it's not necessarily pretty.

Expect More Delays for Massachusetts Sports

It would be one thing if Massachusetts had approved even half of the allotted sports betting licenses by now. But they've only green lit two of them. And applications were submitted roughly one month ago as of this writing. 

You don't need a rocket science degree to understand this isn't exactly a banner pace. At this rate, it will take Massachusetts about a year or more to approve every allotted license in time for a universal sports betting launch. 

Perhaps this is merely proof that the state isn't angling for a universal launch. Massachusetts has discussed staggering releases. A subset of on-site and online sportsbooks would be approved for a main start date and everyone else would launch as their applications and compliance procedures are approved.

But this route has been largely panned by retail sportsbooks. They continue to heavily campaign for a universal launch date. And their argument makes sense. Failing to launch at the beginning would cost gaming operators the chance to reach first-time clients and build up their customer base, because so many people will have already signed up with a sportsbook. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has argued that people create multiple accounts and visit multiple casinos. Online sportsbooks have countered by noting the majority of bettors don't frequent more than one or two. 

How this all ends is anyone's guess. But as far as the Massachusetts sports betting launch goes, we'd wager against it happening in time for the NFL and college football playoffs.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets 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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