In important breaking news for the MA sports betting landscape, Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Karen Wells has declared that online sports betting may be available in Massachusetts as early as March 10th. This means just in time for one of the most popular betting events of the year, the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament.
Karen Wells advised commissioners:
“I’m proposing a tentative launch date for the category 3 mobile operators, or online operators, of March 10th… The recommendation is that we start at 10 a.m.”
However, eager Massachusetts sports fans must remember this assertion’s “tentative” part. Let’s take a look at the potential hang-ups.
Operators Will Need To Be Ready for a March Launch
Following changes to Massachusetts gambling laws, retail and online sports betting has been legal since late 2022. Still, as with all other states that have legalized sports betting, it takes some time for operators to get off the ground. Both in terms of providing all necessary details to state gaming commissions in addition to getting their operations ready for launch.
To quote Wells regarding this concern, she stated of the proposed launch date:
“This is dependent on the quality of the internal control submissions that the applicants have submitted, and their responsiveness to issues brought up by GLI.”
The GLI refers to Gaming Laboratories International, which must be clear on all concerns before the launch of these operators.
In positive news, Wells has stated that operators have been quite responsive so far into the process, yet it remains to be seen if they can get all ducks in a row before March 10th. Still, the ball is in the operators’ court, as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is officially ready for a March 10th launch.
Which Operators Are Likely To Launch in March?
Popular operators like Bally’s, Betr, Betway, DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet, and FanDuel Sportsbook would all be ready to go by March 10th based on their untethered licenses in the state. “Untethered” refers to licenses not attached to partnerships with brick-and-mortar casinos in MA. Still, BetWay is behind the pack as they have informed the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that they will not be ready by this launch date.
Five other operators whose licenses are in partnership with state casinos will also be eligible for a March launch. These include:
A Tough Start for Retail Sports Betting in Massachusetts
Retail sportsbooks, including the Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, and MGM Springfield, have been open for business in Massachusetts since January 31st, 2023. Unfortunately, there have already been some hiccups, as the MGC has discovered that state casinos have allegedly taken bets on prohibited sporting events based on Massachusetts regulations.
A critical rule in Massachusetts sports betting is that bettors are not allowed to bet on in-state colleges (except in qualifying tournament play). Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor are being looked into by the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) department of the MGC for allegedly accepting wagers on in-state college sporting events for several hours.
In their defense, these casinos did self-report these violations, according to Heather Hall of the IEB. These would seem to be honest oversights considering the specific sporting events on which they took these bets. In addition to the self-reporting and relatively short time frame during which these violations occurred.
Reportedly, Encore Boston Harbor accepted bets on a women’s Boston College basketball game for 5 hours. Plainridge Park Casino’s violation involved a men’s Merrimack NCAA basketball game being open for betting for 7 hours. The IEB will submit a complete report to the MGC upon the finalization of the investigation. We will keep you updated on the results of this investigation and any impact it has on the Massachusetts sports betting landscape.