Okay, it's time to call the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts what it is: a disaster. Roadblock after roadblock has popped up since the most recent gambling bill was signed into law. And while nobody expected Massachusetts sports betting to happen overnight, the growing list of issues is both unforeseen and overwhelming.
Prior to now, the timeline for the rollout of sports betting throughout Massachusetts was the most glaring problem. And, well, it's still a problem. Governor Charlie Baker signed the newest sports betting bill into law all the way back in September. The state has yet to deliver a concrete timeline for how long it'll be before Massachusetts residents can bet on sports. That's almost one year without a forecast!
The hangups Massachusetts has faced cover the entire spectrum of dilemmas. In particular, though, the licensing process has been a major calamity. Massachusetts has been unable to settle on a set of criteria for approval, let alone cobble together an approval process itself. That has created a climate of confusion and contention. The state has not even been able to iron out the terms of what permanent sports betting licenses look like. This failure has, in turn, aggravated everybody from tribal casinos to retail online sportsbooks like DraftKings, Caesars, FanDuel, etc.
Not surprisingly, it is this licensing process that has yielded the most recent issue for Massachusetts. And make no mistake, it's no small snafu.
On the contrary, the latest sports betting snag in Massachusetts threatens to undermine the entire system and delay an already-unclear rollout even further.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Only Includes Temporary Licenses
In response to the absence of criteria for permanent sports betting licenses, Massachusetts has instead elected to approve prospective odds providers with temporary clearance. Essentially, any establishment or company licensed to accept bets in the state would need to re-apply for permanent approval at some point.
Sounds like a pretty good solution on the surface, right? Temporary sportsbooks get constructed all the time while companies wait to finish building casinos. And if this gets Massachusetts to roll out sports betting sooner rather than later, what's the problem?
There is a damning lack of details surrounding temporary Massachusetts sports betting licenses. For starters, the state still hasn't mapped out the terms for approval. Who can apply? How many of these licenses can be given out? Will sports betting kiosks in small businesses outside casinos and sporting venues be part of the equation? There have been no concrete answers provided to any of these questions.
But wait! It gets worse.
Here's the Real Problem with Temporary Betting Licenses
Awarding temporary sports betting licenses is technically fine if you guarantee every recipient will eventually get a permanent license. Massachusetts can't do that. Again: They still don't have the blueprint for permanent licenses figured out. And without this criteria in place, it severely limits the type of wagers that bettors throughout can make.
Sure, investing in single-game wagers is fine. But how are you supposed to play the futures market?
Say, for instance, someone wants to bet on the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl in February. Great. Grand. Wonderful. However, if the sportsbook they're using only has a temporary license, there's no guarantee that a sportsbook would legally be able to pay out their wager if it pans out in February. Their license could have expired by then.
Massachusetts can iron out some of these wrinkles by giving every sportsbook a full year of guaranteed operation. But that will still eventually limit the amount of bets that can be placed on futures.
Others have argued they could just award temporary licenses to sportsbooks they know will pass through the eventual permanent licensing process. But that also doesn't fly. Massachusetts has so far failed to implement a cap on the number of temporary licenses that can be handed out, which is the root of this entire issue. And it's unlikely they are able to set a limit on these licenses anytime soon. Matters like this almost always need to be hashed out during legislative sessions, and Massachusetts adjourned theirs in July without instituting a cap on the number of temporary licenses that can be doled out.
Is Massachusetts Sports Betting Doomed Before It Even Officially Starts?
Look, we'd like to answer this question with a resounding "No." But we can't. Not yet. Massachusetts has looked woefully unprepared for a state that legalized sports betting nearly one year ago.
Never mind predicting the timeline for the rollout of Massachusetts sports betting. We can't even forecast what problems might arise five seconds from now. The entire situation has been that messy. Worse still, most of this could have been avoided. The state could have hashed out more of the Massachusetts sports betting details during legislative sessions. They instead elected to take an on-the-fly approach, and it has blown up in their face.
To be honest, Massachusetts sports fans are probably better off exploring alternatives for the foreseeable future. Certain states with legal sports betting—New York, New Jersey, Delaware—are only a short drive away. Most of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will also allow Massachusetts residents to sign up for an account and begin place wagers immediately.
Either of these options beats waiting around for Massachusetts to get their act together. Because frankly, at this moment, it doesn't seem like that'll happen until the next round of legislative meetings.
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