Massachusetts kicks off sports betting ahead of Super Bowl
Massachusetts sports fans looking to bet on their favorite teams are finally getting their chance as the state begins sports betting at casinos on Tuesday, with online betting likely to follow in a few months.
It kicks off just a few weeks before the Super Bowl on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
Lawmakers estimate that sports betting could generate about $60 million in annual tax revenue and $70 to $80 million in initial royalties, which must be renewed every five years. The law provides for a 15% tax on in-person bets and a 20% tax on mobile bets.
While the law permits wagering on collegiate sports, wagering on state colleges and universities is not permitted unless those schools are playing in a national tournament, including the NCAA basketball tournaments.
Initially, sports betting is only allowed at kiosks located in the state’s three casinos – Encore Boston Harbor in Boston, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville and MGM Springfield in Springfield.
People must be at least 21 years old to bet.
The arrival of sports betting in Massachusetts is long overdue, according to Claudia Gabriel, who placed a $50 bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl and a $50 bet on the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup to win.
“I like the home teams. I always support them. I didn’t bet on them, but I’m still happy to support them, so it might be something new for me,” said the 61-year-old Lowell resident.
Bill Dorazio, 69, a semi-retiree from New Hampshire, was also among the first to place a sports bet with Encore Boston Harbor.
“I bet on the Super Bowl. I bet Kansas City would win,” he said. “I picked Kansas City because my team is the Patriots in the AFC and I like to stay with the AFC when it comes to championship games.”
Massachusetts is late for the sports betting game. More than 30 other states already allow it.
Gambling addiction helpers are also preparing for the change.
“We expect to see a lot of new people joining,” said Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, a nonprofit organization that operates centers at the state’s three casinos.
The organization employs “gambling sense consultants” who work with casino guests to help them understand the odds of winning. They can also help people put their names on a voluntary self-exclusion list to exclude themselves from casinos.
Warner said one demographic the group is expecting is young men, who she also believes are one of the most difficult groups to reach with problem gambling help.
“That’s also the primary target audience for sports betting,” she said. “These people are already playing sports, often at harmful levels.”
During her campaign for governor last year, Gov. Maura Healey said she supported sports betting. It was a turning point for the Democrat, who called for the state’s casino gambling law to be repealed during her first run for attorney general in 2014.
“I’m looking forward to more revenue,” Healey said Monday.
Former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law legalizing sports betting. He had argued that residents traveled to Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut to gamble. Baker is now preparing for his next job as NCAA President.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the ban on sports betting was unconstitutional.
The state’s expansion into sports betting comes more than 50 years after the state established the Massachusetts Lottery in 1971.
Pro athletes’ representatives are urging Massachusetts officials to tighten regulations to protect gamblers and their families from gamblers who wager on games and make threats against them.