Just days after Massachusetts Gaming Commission chair Cathy Judd-Stein expressed frustration over the speed of movement on sports betting in the state, there was good news for betting advocates on Friday 7th October. A timetable was announced for the launch with the headline news being that in-person betting at public facilities would be in operation by the time of Super Bowl 57 on February 12th.
Various potential timelines had been discussed both publicly and at meeting of the commission, with the caveat always being that the commission wanted to get sports betting “right” rather than rushing any launch. While the bill legalizing sportsbooks, passed in August, was fairly comprehensive, it has left questions open with regard to whether college sports would be available for betting and in what form, as well as the question of in-game betting.
Late on Thursday, as a near eight-hour session of the commission drew to a conclusion without any decision being made, Judd-Stein vocally expressed her frustration over the inability of members to compromise and move forward on the specifics of the deal. Rancor continued on the second day of the session, with particular flashpoints arising after members of the panel floated the idea of launching sports betting on the weekend of January 28-29, stating that Saturday would work best as it was set to be a “slow day”.
Shortly thereafter, Judd-Stein received a text which alerted her to the fact that the purported weekend was when the AFC and NFC Championships, which decide the contenders for the Super Bowl, would be played. Very much the opposite of a “slow day”, this would be expected to be a period of betting exceeded only by the Super Bowl itself.
There are still a lot of details to be ironed out between now and the beginning of February, but the establishment of a timeline can at least now give shape to how betting will be operated in the state. The licensing process for sports betting in Massachusetts will be the primary focus of decisions to be made between now and then but, with the idea of a conclusion by Super Sunday now a matter of public record, there is now something to aim for.
In all, there may be up to 225 new rules to decide upon before the green light can be given to launch sports betting in full within Massachusetts. Some of these will pertain to the practicalities of online gambling, which is not expected to go live until after the NFL showpiece. The timeline devised on Friday did suggest that online betting could be permitted by the time of the college basketball playoffs, better known as March Madness, which in 2023 will begin on the 14th of March.
In the meantime, the delays which have arisen in Massachusetts are an indicator that even when a state passes legislation to permit sports betting, saying “sports betting is now legal in [state]” can be somewhat misleading. There is always a lot of road left to cover before that will be the case.