Massachusetts Online Sports Betting Laws
Massachusetts sports betting is not legal – yet. But it will be a massive surprise if the situation doesn’t change soon. With a population of seven million, some of the most famous sports teams in American sport, and a legislature desperately keen for legalization, surely it will happen in 2021?
Administrative law and government relations attorney
Jennifer has a degree in Journalism from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C, in 2005. She's been living in Las Vegas helping clients in the casino and gaming industry, as well as other regulated businesses, across Nevada for over 15 years.
She has authored and co-authored numerous articles and books on US gaming law, including most recently, The Law of Regulated Gambling: A Practical Guide for Business Lawyers, American Bar Association (2020), and That (Expletive) Broad: Women Who Broke Barriers in the Casino and Gaming Industry (2020).
Is Sports Betting Legal in Massachusetts?
No, Massachusetts sports betting is not legal. But there is a strong appetite to change that very soon.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Massachusetts?
There are no Massachusetts betting sites yet. It does seem likely however that they could be launched in the near future.
The push for the legalization of Massachusetts sports betting picked up serious steam in 2020.
By then, it was apparent that states that had already legalized – many of them bordering the Bay State – were seeing some impressive tax revenues.
That’s a compelling argument at a time when many states are struggling financially to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a state of nearly seven million people that is home to some of the most famous teams across US sport, the arguments against legalized sports betting started to hold less water. However, the bills introduced in 2020 – like the ones launched before them in 2019 and 2018 in the wake of the overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) – failed to pick up enough momentum.
The Senate was the stumbling block, removing sports betting from the economic development bill H4887. At the start of the 2021 legislative session, it became clear that the appetite for legalization was stronger than ever, as no fewer than 14 bills on the subject were introduced.
While the Senate may remain the most serious obstacle to the legalization of Massachusetts sports betting, other lawmakers in the state are more positive on its benefits.
State governor Charlie Baker launched one of the 14 bills, HD678. He has been quoted as saying that sports betting “is going to be a thing pretty much everywhere, and our view was that we should get on with the show”.
The 14 bills contain an array of different stipulations around factors such as betting licenses and wagering on college sports. It will be fascinating to see which ones fall by the wayside and which, possibly with an amendment or two, go forward to battle for final approval.
It will be a surprise if the provisions for Massachusetts sports betting, if they finally arrive, do not include online betting.
There are only three commercial casinos in the state, which makes for a very small retail footprint if sports betting is confined to those premises.
Leading online sportsbooks will undoubtedly compete fiercely for the opportunity to operate in the state that’s home to the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots.
Although sports betting might sound like a new proposition in the state, there is an exception to the rule, and that is horse racing.
The state has legal pari-mutuel wagering, meaning bettors can take advantage of in-advance deposit wagering. This means that bets can be placed on races via the phone or online, with betting sites such as TVG and TwinSpires.
The last bastion of horse racing in a once bustling industry is Plainridge Park in Plainville, a “racino” that hosts standardbred harness racing in addition to casino gaming.
There is no legal gray area around Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) in Massachusetts. DFS was made legal on a temporarily basis in 2016 and permanently two years later.
That leaves residents of the Bay State free to enjoy DFS games, which are provided by all the leading DFS operators. DraftKings is based in Boston, which gives it plenty of local leverage.
With five leading pro teams in the state, there is no shortage of local interest in the sports games on offer.
Massachusetts is home to the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins and the New England Patriots, not to mention the New England Revolution soccer team and several top-level college programs.
The New England Patriots have enjoyed an extraordinary run of success since the turn of the century. Six times they’ve won the Super Bowl, all of which were led on the pitch and off it by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. With five college programs fielding teams in Division I of the NCAA, this is a state that loves its football at all levels and will relish the opportunity to bet on it.
In a state that loves its sport, and already features DFS, casinos, and a state lottery, it is no surprise that Massachusetts already has a firm focus on the advisability of gambling responsibly.
While betting of any kind is a source of fun for most people, in a small minority it can lead to addiction and consequent emotional and financial problems.
Several agencies in the Bay State offer assistance in the form of advice and practical help:
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has a strong commitment to responsible gambling and offers a host of information about how the practice is regulated in the state
The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health offers help, extensive information, and training for people involved in the industry.
The Office of Problem Gambling Services focuses on prevention efforts to halt gambling issues before they develop, and assistance if they do.
GameSense is a site full of advice about gambling in Massachusetts casinos – including support for people who feel the need to self-exclude.
The National Council on Problem Gambling pulls together all the local resources in one place and also offers a national, confidential 24-hour helpline.
PASPA is ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, opening the door for states to authorize sports betting if they wish.
Multiple sports betting bills are launched in Massachusetts, but none gets the momentum to go very far.
The House attempts to work sports betting into a development bill, but the Senate amends it to take that language out.
14 bills are launched to legalize sports betting – we wait to see which, if any, will be successful.
There are presently no outlets for Massachusetts sports betting. The only sporting action you can bet on in the state is horse racing at Plainridge Park.
However, there are three casinos in the state, which would likely be high on the list of potential locations for sports betting if and when legalization happens.
|Encore Boston Harbor||1 Broadway, Everett MA 02149|
|MGM Springfield||One MGM Way, Springfield MA 01103|
|Plainridge Park Casino||301 Washington Street, Plainville MA 02762|
Not yet. Massachusetts sports betting has yet to be legalized, but it may not be long before legal Massachusetts betting sites are operating in the state. There are substantial efforts under way to legalize sports betting here and it is to be hoped that Massachusetts online betting would be allowed under the new legislation.
No. At present there are no legal Massachusetts betting sites. Some offshore operators offer services to people living in the US, but betting with these sportsbooks carries an element of risk. If you have a dispute over a wager, for instance, you have no legal recourse with the authorities.
Yes and no. DraftKings – based in the state – is one of the leading providers of Daily Fantasy Sports, which is legal in Massachusetts. However, the sportsbook arm of DraftKings is not allowed to operate here – although the company will surely be extremely interested in a Massachusetts online betting license if they come up for grabs.
Many modern sportsbooks offer a cash out feature. This is a way of settling your bet early if you fear it may lose and you want to lock in a profit or minimize your losses. If Massachusetts online betting becomes a reality, you will be able to compare the cash out offers and work out which sites are the best.