Sports Betting Launches in Massachusetts Just in Time for the Superbowl and March Madness
Status of Sports Betting in Massachusetts
USA (February 1, 2023) — Almost five years after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), Massachusetts has become the 33rd state to accept sports wagers. Last August, Governor Baker signed An Act to Regulate Sports Wagering (House Bill No. 5164), which legalized sports betting in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (the “Commission”) has since issued licenses to three retail casinos to operate in-person sports betting: Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, and MGM Springfield. These casinos opened in-person sports betting on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at 10 a.m. EST, kicking off the occasion with star-studded, grand opening ceremonies. Each casino offers a dedicated lounge of sports betting kiosks.
With respect to Category 2 (simulcasting) licenses, the Commission has yet to approve Caesars Entertainment’s application to operate a sportsbook at Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs has not applied for a license. Mobile or online, sports betting has not launched in Massachusetts yet but is expected to begin sometime in March 2023.
According to the Commission’s “Official Catalog of Events and Wagers,” customers can place bets on more mainstream offerings like football, basketball, baseball, hockey, volleyball, soccer, and golf. But lesser-known sports are also included, e.g., Australian rules football, badminton, biathlon, billiards, bowling, boxing, cricket, cycling, darts, disc, floorball, futsal, golf, handball, field hockey, lacrosse, mixed martial arts, motorsports, netball, pesapallo, rowing, rugby, sailing, snooker, beach soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, beach volleyball, and water polo. Although not traditionally considered a “sport,” betting on special events like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest and awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys are also permitted.
Exclusions and Limitations
Sports wagering in Massachusetts does carry some restrictions, however. Betting on in-state college sports is only permitted if the team is participating in a tournament with more than four teams, like March Madness. Massachusetts does not permit betting on high school and youth sports or athletic events.
For competitions where the outcome is primarily based on a judge’s evaluation, such as Summer and Winter Olympic events and the X Games, sports wagering is currently forbidden. Bets are also outlawed on sports or sporting events overseen by Russian or Belarusian governing bodies.
People under 21 are not legally permitted to bid, and bets cannot be made by credit card.
The Path Forward
Under the oversight of the Commission, Encore, Plainridge, and MGM each have their own house rules, maximum and minimum bet levels, operating hours, and other policies. As the Commission processes hundreds of regulations, rules governing sports betting are expected to develop continuously. The Commission has indicated that it will focus, in particular, on ensuring that licensees’ advertising activities satisfy responsible gambling objectives. The first day of in-person sports betting in Massachusetts, while no doubt causes for celebration for many, is only one phase of an ongoing process. Entities should retain experienced gaming counsel to navigate and maintain compliance with this complex regulatory field.
The following alert is an update to the authors’ alert dated Aug. 4, 2022, which can be found at this link: Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill to Legalize Sports Betting in the Commonwealth.
SOURCES: Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP / LEXOLOGY