Yesterday, the Massachusetts legislature finally – finally! – sent a formal sports betting package to the governor’s desk, and the bill awaits Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature.
If for some reason Baker doesn’t sign the bill within the next 10 days, it will be considered vetoed. That, though, is unlikely.
By all indications, Baker intends to sign the bill, as he’s been a reasonably solid supporter of sports betting legalization over the last several years.
However, as we previously reported, even if Baker signs the bill today, it could be another year or more before MA bettors can actually place wagers with domestic sportsbooks.
When will Massachusetts sports betting launch?
The goal is to get Massachusetts sports betting up and running before the start of the 2022 NFL season. But with the first game just over a month away, that gives regulators almost no time to get these services launched.
In all but the rarest cases, recent history has shown that it generally takes a state at least three months to roll out limited sports wagering once the pastime has been legalized. Mobile sports betting often takes even longer to get off the ground, what with its more complex and technical nature.
Of course, with now-seasoned operators taking the helm, sports betting apps no longer have to be built from scratch.
This means brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, etc. could conceivably set up some in-state servers, tweak a few settings on their app backends, mix in the appropriate geofencing restrictions, and get these things out the door much more quickly than in years past.
That’s why there remains some actual optimism that the timeline isn’t so unrealistic as it might have been in 2018 or 2019 in the wake of the PASPA overturn.
Indeed, Massachusetts Sen. Michael Rodrigues, who heads up the state’s budget committee, believes it’s totally doable:
“Yeah, I think it will be [ready by football season]. Hopefully. You can bet on in-state football teams, so you can bet on the Patriots.”
Notably, the last-place Red Sox didn’t get a similar shoutout.
The most likely scenario is that in-person sports betting – at casinos and horse tracks – will launch within the first month or so of the upcoming NFL season, with online betting arriving a few weeks or months thereafter.
Worst case scenario, mobile betting arrives right in time for the 2022 Super Bowl. Realistically, it’s difficult to see the process taking any longer than that.
Legal Offshore Betting Alternatives
Of course, you don’t actually have to wait.
Realistically, online sports betting has been legally available in Massachusetts for years, as there are no local gambling laws barring the use of real-money offshore sportsbook sites.
And even once online sports betting goes live in MA, there are still some significant limitations that might make it unpalatable for offshore bettors to make the switch (or new bettors to jump onboard domestically instead of internationally).
For example, collegiate betting is banned. If you want to wager on Boston College, you can’t. If you want to wager on Boston College’s visiting opponents, you can’t.
If you want to get a line on a local pro team that isn’t hopelessly skewed, you can’t.
If you’re under 21 and want to bet on anything at all, you can’t.
If you want to make a sports betting deposit with your credit card, you can’t.
If you want to bet with Bitcoin or another popular cryptocurrency, you can’t.
And as potential final nail in the coffin: If you want to play a few hands of real-money online blackjack or crank some slots in between games, you can’t.
But offshore, you can do all these things.
And thankfully, there are no provisions in the new act that bar MA bettors from legally accessing, placing wagers with, and collecting payouts from the best offshore sportsbook sites.