Mobile Sports Betting to Start in Massachusetts on March 10, Regulator Says

Statewide mobile sports betting in the Bay State could be up and running in time for people to wager on March Madness.

Last Updated: Feb 9, 2023 11:55 AM ET Read Time: 3 min
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Regulators finally have a date circled on the calendar for the potential launch of mobile sports betting sites in the Bay State.

The executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said during the regulator’s meeting on Thursday that she is proposing a tentative launch date for online sportsbooks of March 10 at 10 a.m.

In other words, statewide mobile sports betting in Massachusetts could be up and running in time for people to wager on the hugely popular NCAA men's basketball championship, which begins March 14.

“The suggestion is we do it that day because it gives us the weekend if there are any issues before March Madness starts,” the MGC’s Karen Wells told the commissioners. “And then there's a Monday where we could have a commission meeting, if necessary, if there are any issues before the big tournament starts.” 

There is a chance the date and time could change, as there is regulatory work to do before the other avenue of legal sports betting in the state can open. The internal controls of bookmakers are under review, and the MGC must approve temporary licenses and operation certificates. 

Still, the MGC has long targeted early March as the ballpark target for launching mobile sports wagering in the state. Moreover, while the regulatory body is trying to be evenhanded with its reviews, it could launch without every operator involved. The MGC has given preliminary approvals for mobile sports betting to 11 operators.

“If the applicants can't respond or do not respond to needed modifications to their internal control submissions, that potentially impacts the timeline,” Wells said. “And we do have the option of launching some but not all of the operators.”

The news follows the start of legal sports betting in Massachusetts on January 31 at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM Springfield in Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville. The three casinos and their sportsbooks are the first places Bay State residents can turn to make a legal wager.

Some insight into the early days of sports betting was provided Wednesday by the chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., who said daily handle at their Encore Boston Harbor location averaged a little more than $500,000 over the first six days. Wynn CEO Craig Billings said action at their WynnBET sportsbook at the Encore was about 80% of what the Wynn Las Vegas sees in daily sports wagering.

“During those six days, we also signed up about 30% more Wynn Rewards members than normal,” Billings added during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call. “We continue to expect the book to be a significant driver for new customer acquisition over time.” 

A series of unfortunate events

Wynn is also counting on the start of online sports betting in Massachusetts to be a major catalyst for its digital business. WynnBET remains one of the smaller players in the U.S. sports betting industry, but its brick-and-mortar property in the commonwealth and the early-mover advantage offered by the retail-first start for wagering could give the operator an edge. 

Getting on the bad side of Massachusetts regulators may not help with those ambitions, but Encore and Plainridge Park have apparently put a foot wrong in the early days of legal sports betting. 

The MGC heard on Thursday that there were "non-compliance events" involving the two casinos, as the operators allowed wagering on games involving Massachusetts colleges for several hours. That is not permitted in Massachusetts unless the state's colleges are playing in a tournament like March Madness.

Both casinos self-reported the issues to the MGC, which will more formally tackle the matter next week. 

“These matters are new to us, and so we are just wanting to make sure our processes are all in place, commissioners,” MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said. “And, after next Tuesday, we will be able to determine if any next steps are taken either by the commission itself or, at our direction, the [Investigations and Enforcement Bureau]. So today is quite preliminary in nature.”  

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