MA Retail & Online Sports Betting to Launch in Early 2023

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has issued three gaming operator licenses so far, but another three licenses are close to approval as well.
MA Retail & Online Sports Betting to Launch in Early 2023
December 23, 2022

On Thursday, regulators in Massachusetts announced during an open meeting that retail sports betting will officially launch in the state on January 31, 2023, with online sports betting expected to follow suit in March.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said during Thursday’s four-and-a-half hour meeting that the three land-based casinos in the state — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino — will each open retail sportsbooks on that date.

Software testing of betting kiosks will begin on January 16, followed by the MGC awarding operations certificates on January 27. Both are prerequisites for offering sports betting in the Bay State.

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A soft launch under the observation of the MGC will take place on January 30.

The regulator said it expects mobile sports betting to launch sometime in March 2023, which — depending on when the actual launch occurs, it should be in time for the NCAA’s March Madness. The men’s tournament starts on March 14, while the women’s tournament begins on March 15.

There Could Be 15 Sportsbooks in MA

There could be as many as 15 real money online sportsbooks in Massachusetts.

Three categories of operator licenses were established under the state’s gaming regimen. The state’s three land-based casinos are allowed to apply for a Category 1 license, under which they would be permitted to offer in-person sports betting through retail sportsbooks and two online skins.

Operators partnering with a land-based casino must apply for a Category 3 license, which would be tethered to the land-based casino’s Category 1 license.

An additional seven standalone Category 3 licenses — meaning they are not tethered or associated with a land-based casino or horse racetrack — can also be awarded by the MGC. This represents the best way to get market access for operators without property in the state.

Meanwhile, the state’s two horse racetracks — Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs — may apply for a Category 2 license, which allows each of them to have one online skin.

Racetracks Will Launch Sports Betting Later

MGC received a total of 15 sports wagering operator license applications by the November 21 deadline.

Encore, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park each applied for a Category 1 license. bet365, BetMGM Sports, Caesars Sportsbook, Fanatics Sportsbook, Penn Sports Interactive, and WynnBET all applied for Category 3 licenses tethered to either a Category 1 or 2 property.

Six operators — Bally Bet, Betr, Betway, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet — have applied for a standalone Category 3 license. MGC can issue up to seven such licenses, so the six that applied may ultimately win licensure.

According to the MGC, Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs have notified the regulator that “while they intend to apply [for Category 2 licenses], they are not prepared to begin offering in-person sports wagering by January 2023.”

Since the two horse racetracks are the only two entities in the state that can operate under a Category 2 license, the MGC decided on November 10 to allow applications for a license on a rolling basis — including for Category 3 licenses tethered to a Category 2 license.

To date, bet365 is the only operator to have applied for a Category 3 license tethered to a horse racetrack. It intends to partner with Raynham Park once it applies for, and is awarded, a Category 2 license.

Three Licenses Have Been Awarded So Far

So far, the MGC has awarded three licenses. Another three are waiting in the wings.

The regulator voted to approve Category 1 licenses to Encore on December 8 and MGM Springfield on December 19. On Tuesday, it ruled that Plainridge Park was “preliminarily suitable” for a temporary Category 1 license.

MGC set two conditions for Plainridge Park to receive a license. It must:

  • Agree that no one under the age of 21 will be permitted entrance to any live Barstool College Football Show events
  • Fully cooperate with the regulator’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) as it probes the branding of Barstool Sports

The former condition stems from a September incident in Knoxville, Tennessee, in which Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and other personalities from the Barstool College Football Show discussed a $100,000 wager Portnoy placed before a Georgia-Tennessee college football game — with a young, under 21 audience in attendance. The wager was reportedly for Georgia to repeat as national champions.

Meanwhile, the latter condition involves unease among some commissioners over sexual misconduct allegations tied to Portnoy.

Penn plans to launch its Barstool Sportsbook in Massachusetts. Barstool has not yet been awarded a license.

MGC awarded WynnBET one of the two Category 3 licenses tethered to Encore on December 13. The regulator found BetMGM Sports “preliminarily suitable” for a Category 3 license tethered to MGM Springfield on Monday but said the operator needed to cooperate with two confidential investigations by the IEB. It was also required to submit a vendor diversity list.

Caesars Sportsbook was found “preliminarily suitable” for a Category 3 license tethered to Encore on Tuesday.

WynnBET will run the retail sportsbook at Encore and use one of the casino’s two online skins for WynnBET Sportsbook MA. Caesars Sportsbook MA will be the other online sportsbook at Encore.

Massachusetts Sports Betting Licensees

Category 1 – Land-based Casinos Applied? Awarded?
Encore Boston Harbor Yes Yes
MGM Springfield Yes Yes
Plainridge Park Casino Yes Yes
Category 2 – Horse Tracks Applied? Awarded?
Raynham Park No No
Suffolk Downs No No
Category 3 – Tethered Licenses (8 max) Applied? Awarded?
Barstool Sportsbook Yes No
bet365 Yes No
BetMGM Yes Yes
Caesars Sportsbook Yes Yes
Fanatics Sportsbook Yes No
WynnBET Yes Yes
Category 3 – Standalone Licenses (7 max) Applied? Awarded?
Bally Bet Yes No
Betr Yes No
Betway Yes No
DraftKings Yes No
FanDuel Yes No
PointsBet Yes No
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