The First Massachusetts Sports Betting License Has Been Given Out

The First Massachusetts Sports Betting License Has Been Given Out

Another big step has been toward the rollout of legal sports betting in Massachusetts. And it's one gambling enthusiasts should legitimately celebrate. The first Massachusetts sports betting license has officially been approved.

Encore Boston Harbor, a hotel and casino in Boston, is the first operator to be granted a sportsbook license. Their application was unanimously approved on Thursday, December 8, and it sets the stage for other establishments to be awarded their own licenses in the coming days and weeks.

However, despite this massive development, the rollout of Massachusetts sports betting continues to billow in the wind. Most notably, there is still no timeline for a launch. In fact, the Gaming Commission is still trying to determine whether they will schedule a universal launch date for Massachusetts sports betting or favor a staggered release. There have also been reports of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission delaying their votes on licensing applications for select operators, according to Boston.com.

Still, the approval of Encore Boston Harbor suggests that the state is moving in the right direction. It ostensibly demands a timeline for Massachusetts sports betting will soon follow. But is that accurate? Let's see if we can't find some clarity in this sandstorm of details.

What Does a Massachusetts Sports Betting License Mean for Encore Boston Harbor?

As a hotel and casino operated by a major corporation, Encore Boston Harbor is uniquely positioned to capitalize on Massachusetts legal sports betting.

This is not a casino or small-business venue that will sprinkle in some betting kiosks throughout their building. Encore Boston Harbor has plans to open a full service sportsbook. And it figures to be a monster draw among locals. The city of Boston is home to the Boston Celtics (NBA), Boston Bruins (NHL) and Boston Red Sox. Local government officials and small-business owners are expecting huge spending windfalls on gamedays for those teams.

Additionally, in the 11th hour of negotiations, Massachusetts decided to legalize online sports betting on top of in-person wagering. This means you should absolutely be brushing up on our reviews of the top online sportsbooks in the world. It also means that Encore Boston Harbor will be setting up their own mobile sports betting app that customers can access both on and off the premise.

As the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues to rule on their sports betting applications, you can expect to see other casinos and licensees follow Encore Harbor Boston's lead. However, it isn't totally clear whether some of the smaller casinos and businesses will be able to enter the mobile betting app rat race. That's why we also expect to see partnerships hammered out between tinier casino operators and bigger-time retail sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and many others.

This brings up an interesting question, though: Who else is in line to receive a sports betting license from Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts Sports Betting License Process is Moving Slowly

It has been a few weeks now since the deadline passed to submit applications for a Massachusetts sports betting license. And it says a great deal about the state of affairs that Encore Boston Harbor is the only operator to be approved so far.

Massachusetts has dragged out this process at almost every turn. Some of the delays were necessary. They want to make sure they have the compliance officers in place to make sure every sportsbook operator is following proper procedure. But the lack of clarity behind their thinking has ultimately proved harmful.

A number of potential applicants for a sports betting license actually missed the deadline to submit their forms. And this list reportedly includes some of the heavier hitters in the business—though we have not been publicly updated on which ones. This feasibly means a major online sportsbook could have to sit out the Massachusetts sports betting launch. 

What's more, it doesn't seem like the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is giving top priority to online sports betting licenses. Most of the updates that have been released focus on brick-and-mortar operators or professional sports betting teams looking to set up a gambling shop inside their venue.

This could mean nothing. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission could just be reviewing applications by license type and then planning to have everyone launch at the same time. But it could also mean that they're planning to allow on-site sportsbooks and betting kiosks to open up shop before anyone else—a decision that would no doubt frustrate retail online bookmakers.

So...What's the Timeline for Sports Betting in Massachusetts?

Incredibly, we still don't have an answer to this question. The party line coming out of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has been some version of "sometime in January 2023" or "sometime before the Super Bowl in February." 

Even without concrete dates attached to them, both of these timelines are starting to feel ambitious. As Boston.com noted, receiving a Massachusetts sports betting license is but another step in the process. "Encore Boston Harbor must now obtain a certificate of operations and meet 'additional conditions' before people can start placing bets there," the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said in a statement.

It would be one thing if every pending sports betting operator in Massachusetts were already licensed and just needed to check compliance boxes. But Encore Boston Harbor remains the only one at this stage. And we're already in mid-December.

Can Massachusetts realistically wrap up the licensing process, make sure every applicant is compliant and officially open the sports betting doors in less than a month? Or even in two months? We're very skeptical.

Our guess is Massachusetts sports betting will struggle to facilitate a full-blown launch before the 2023 Super Bowl. But we'll just have to wait and see.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan is a sports betting writer who can tackle any topic from presidential elections to changes in the sports betting legislation federally and on the state level. He also writes picks for NFL.