Year In Review: Sports Betting in Massachusetts in 2023

Massachusetts sports betting is gaining momentum, generating $654.4 million in wagers in November. Operators, however, continue to struggle with Bay State regulations.

Amy Calistri - News Editor at Covers.com
Amy Calistri • News Editor
Dec 27, 2023 • 06:00 ET • 4 min read
DraftKings
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Massachusetts sports betting got off to a slow start compared to neighboring states. The state didn’t legalize sports betting until 2022. Retail sports betting finally debuted on Jan. 31, 2023, at the state’s three casinos, Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino.  

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno placed the first legal sports bet in Massachusetts. Sarno picked the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl. While the mayor lost his bet, the retail sportsbooks were clear winners.

“Today is a monumental step for BetMGM and sets the stage for us to deliver a best-in-class sports wagering experience across Massachusetts,” said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt said.

Online sports betting got underway on March 10, just prior to NCAA Basketball’s March Madness. Roughly 97 % of Massachusetts sports betting wagers are currently made online.  

Boston-based DraftKings is the market leader in Massachusetts, responsible for just over half of the state’s online wagers. Meanwhile, FanDuel generates roughly 28% of Massachusetts online sports bets.  

Massachusetts has eight online operators. Last month marked the launch of ESPN Bet, which replaced Barstool Sportsbook, PENN Entertainment’s former partner. The move already looks promising. Massachusetts’ ESPN Bet generated roughly three times the bets in November than its predecessor did in October. And while many states will be losing WynnBet, it will continue to operate in Massachusetts for the foreseeable future.  

See also: Sports Betting in Kentucky in 2023

Massachusetts regulators play hardball 

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for sports betting providers. Every state has different rules and regulations. Every state requires new coding. Every state has regulators who may have different interpretations of state statutes. And even through Massachusetts sports betting is still in its early days, its regulator, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), is developing a reputation as a bit of a stickler.    

In July, the MGC fined its three casinos for accepting bets on in-state college basketball games. This was due to coding errors, where the schools were erroneously identified as out-of-state.  

The MGC recently grilled online operators about their ability to detect underage bettors. And this month, it called out DraftKings for accepting wagers funded by out-of-state credit card deposits. The commission said 218 DraftKings customers bet a total of $83,663.92 on 242 wager using credit cards from the launch of mobile betting on March 10 until July 13. 

See also: 10 Predictions, Bold and Otherwise, About Sports Betting in 2024 

However, the MGC doesn’t always come down hard on its operators. Last month, it allowed DraftKings to void winning parlays placed at the wrong odds, saving the company more than $500,000 in potential payouts. The MGC made a similar ruling in September, allowing Barstool Sportsbook to void 257 wagers totaling $47,759.94 on outcomes that had already occurred. 

Meanwhile, Massachusetts operators are facing regulatory risk from more than just the MGC. Northeastern University’s Public Health Advocacy Institute and its associated Center for Public Health Litigation are seeking legal action against DraftKings in response to a misleading promotion. The promotion promised a $1,000 bonus to new bettors in Massachusetts, but the company was unclear that bettors had to deposit $5,000 and gamble $25,000 via bets of -300 or longer within 90 days to qualify. 

Massachusetts, however, has less than a year of legalized sports betting under its belt. Regulators and operators will eventually find a comfortable balance.  After all, Massachusetts has collected more than $81.8 million in taxes and assessments from sports betting in just 10 months. That should provide ample motivation to work things out.  

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