It is now a question of when, not if, for sports betting in Massachusetts after the state’s governor Charlie Baker signed a compromise bill which was agreed by the legislature last week. Gubernatorial approval was the final step in the process to make sports betting legal in the state, and the process of making it all official now falls under the control of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which will have control over licensing and shaping how betting is done in the state on a long-term basis.
An initial bill has been in the pipeline since 2021, when the House agreed on a sports betting bill that then failed to secure Senate approval. When the Senate agreed their own bill, the process moved to one of reconciliation where the two houses of state congress went through the provisions in each bill line by line, and agreed a combined bill which could be sent for approval. Baker, who had previously indicated he would sign any bill that could be agreed by both houses, came through on his word within days of the reconciliation bill being finalized.
What this doesn’t mean is that sports betting will now come to the state in short order. The reconciliation bill says what shape the laws concerning betting can take. The Gaming Commission must now fill in the blanks and create a licensing process as well as deciding how sports betting will be administered on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. While some lawmakers and public figures were open last week about their hope that a move could be made “soon”, the commission says that they’re going to take their time to ensure things are done well.
No timeframe has been put on the eventual launch of sports betting in the Bay State, but a look around the other jurisdictions that have passed gambling legislation suggests that we are looking at months rather than weeks.
Kansas’ state legislature agreed on a similar bill just over three months ago and it was signed equally promptly, but even the most optimistic time frames being given there indicate that a launch may happen in “late 2022”, with the beginning of 2023 looking more likely. It’s not out of the question that Massachusetts could deliver at around the same time, but neither is it impossible that the eventual delivery could come next Spring.
One thing that can be stated with certainty is that Massachusetts will, in due course, become the latest US state to offer sports betting to its residents. Providers such as land-based casinos and racetrack operators will be invited to apply for licenses at a cost of $5 million per license, while seven additional online-only licenses are also expected to be offered up. The state’s professional sports teams will also be entitled to offer betting services at their facilities, and while the reconciliation process decided that college sports will be available to bet on, games involving in-state schools such as Boston College will not.