Go ahead and get ready for legal sports betting in Massachusetts, folks. And yes, this means exactly what you think it does. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has officially signed the state's legal sports betting bill into law, paving the way for serious gaming reform in the Northeast.
Of course, this reform will not take place overnight. Massachusetts now needs to handle the rollout, which begins with the regulatory process. This procedure can take significant time to hammer out—more than a year, in some cases.
While this will be frustrating for many, anyone who is too impatient to wait for Massachusetts to get their bearings doesn't have to twiddle their thumbs until the state is ready. Our reviews of the top online sportsbooks include a host of reputable sites willing and able to accept your business right now. Using them is a fantastic workaround during what remains an uncertain time in Massachusetts.
Still, if you're like us, you're wondering what the immediate future holds for this legal sports betting bill now that it has been signed into law. When can Massachusetts residents expect to be able to bet on sports? What will sports betting in Massachusetts ultimately look like? Are there any potential hangups we need to be on the look for?
We've got the answers to all these questions—and more.
Massachusetts Legal Sports Betting Bill First Step in a Long Line of Many Others
Whenever a state signs a legal sports betting bill into law, there's this common misconception that everything will take effect immediately. Nothing could be further from the truth. States need to set up a sports betting infrastructure, which includes extending and reviewing licensing applications, equipping casinos to accept on-site bets, configuring regulatory measures and much more.
Fortunately, Massachusetts is not working without a baseline. Since legal sports betting in the United States is now the majority rule—with 30-plus locations and counting having approved some form of gambling—The Bay State has plenty of examples off which to work. Massachusetts is also no stranger to overseeing tribal-operated casinos, so they are not starting completely from scratch.
This is not to say the rollout will be easy. Or fast. As Chris Van Buskirk outlined for MassLive.com, the to-do list for Massachusetts remains incredibly extensive:
"But even with Baker’s approval, sports betting in the commonwealth is not ready for prime time just yet as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission takes the reins on implementation. It may take until 2023 before people can place bets within the state on their Boston sports teams. The Gaming Commission must now solidify regulations for the newly legal state industry and process licensing applications. A new timeline emerged during a commission meeting last week after top lawmakers optimistically predicted betting could be rolled out in time for the upcoming football season."
Though some states have aimed for quicker rollout timelines, the commissioner for the Gaming Commission, Brad Hill, has said Massachusetts will take their time going through licensing applications and wrapping up the implementation of legal sports betting. That basically eliminates any hope of the legal sports betting bill going into effect before or during the 2022 NFL season.
When Will Massachusetts Have Sports Betting Up and Running?
This remains, quite literally, the billion-dollar question.
Lawmakers are anxious to finish the regulatory measures required by the legal sports betting bill so that the state capitalizes on the potential tax revenue. The local economy is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, and Massachusetts officials know that residents will continue to bet on the NFL and other sports in different states or through offshore sportsbooks in the interim.
At the same time, Massachusetts has followed Ohio's lead and set up three different licensing categories. This maximizes access to sports betting for residents, but it also requires extra legwork to construct. Massachusetts will almost assuredly need to sift through hundreds of applications, and it will take additional time to ensure all the small businesses with the requisite liquor licenses are able to begin offering sports betting services.
Officials throughout the state have tinkered with their rollout projection as a result of this issue. Optimists within the Massachusetts government are now hopeful they can have sports betting up and running by the middle of 2023, while others believe it may take until late 2023.
One thing everyone agrees with: Massachusetts has to have sports betting ready to go before the 2023 NFL season kicks off next September.
What Does the Massachusetts Legal Sports Betting Bill Cover?
Given the parameters under which Massachusetts has legalized sports betting, we're inclined to believe it will be worth the wait.
Sure, the state has debated this matter without resolution for years. And yes, there's a scenario in which Massachusetts isn't ready to offer sports betting state-wide until the start of 2024. But unlike other states, Massachusetts has prioritized access to sports betting for both customers and patrons.
Under the current terms, there will be three separate licenses handed out: one that goes to brick-and-mortar casinos; one for online sportsbooks; and another that covers everything from professional sporting venues to bars and card rooms with specific liquor licenses.
Put another way: The Massachusetts legal sports betting bill covers pretty much every possible form of gambling. So when everything is up and running, nobody should have any trouble finding ways to place their bet. Whether you prefer in-person or online wagering, using a boutique sportsbooks or corporate giant, Massachusetts has basically guaranteed there will be a betting option best suited to you.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports betting needs: