All of the regulatory boxes have been checked in Massachusetts, and online sports betting sites can launch in the Bay State tomorrow morning.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) approved house rules and operations certificates Thursday for six so-called "Category 3" operators of online sportsbooks. Those approvals tee up the operators to launch in the commonwealth as early as Friday at 10 a.m., the MGC’s chosen start time.
Friday’s launch will be the culmination of months of work by lawmakers and regulators in Massachusetts. Sports-betting legislation became law in August 2022, and legal sports betting began in the state on January 31 at three casinos.
It’s online, however, where the bulk of wagering will happen. The MGC opted for a staggered launch of Massachusetts sports betting and spent an extra month or so to ensure all the pieces were in place for the mobile debut.
Six online sportsbooks are now set to launch in Massachusetts on Friday morning. They are:
Additional operators will join the market in the coming weeks. Betr is aiming to go live in Massachusetts over the next month, while Bally Bet and Fanatics are eyeing a May launch. Betway has said it will jump into Massachusetts in 2024.
There is room for more sportsbooks to enter the fray as well. Under Massachusetts law, as many as 15 mobile sports betting licenses are available, although two operators have already pulled back from the market, bet365 and PointsBet.
The work is never over
Nevertheless, there are clear signs that the Massachusetts market will continue to be tweaked and refined by regulators. Ad rules in particular could be adjusted further, as the MGC heard Thursday that three FanDuel ads had already been flagged by a commissioner for potentially violating the state's standards.
The Massachusetts Attorney General's office also recently commented to the MGC that it was hoping to see some tweaks to mobile sports betting regulations in the commonwealth, such as toughening up rules to ensure marketing does not target younger people.
Attorneys from the AG’s office appeared before the MGC on Thursday morning to echo and expand upon concerns they communicated to the commission in a letter. Among other things, the AG's office prodded the commission to "carefully scrutinize" the design of apps to sniff out any addicting features, limit or prohibit the use of faux "experts," and require operators to use the data they have about customers to identify problem gamblers and direct them toward assistance.
“This changing landscape demands prudence and caution, especially given the addiction and public health considerations at play,” the letter from the AG's office said. “In addition, sports wagering operators have been actively marketing their products in the rollout of mobile betting, sometimes in ways that appear not to reconcile with the Commission’s existing emergency or draft regulations. Accordingly, the Commission should provide additional clarity in the near term to ensure responsible conduct during the important early days of mobile wagering.”
The requests from the AG’s office did not fall on deaf ears. Indeed, commissioners signaled they are prepared to keep tweaking their rules.
“We're nimble, we're rigorous, but we're willing to make any adjustments needed to protect both the patrons and the citizens of the commonwealth,” Commissioner Jordan Maynard said during the meeting.