Massachusetts Sports Betting Start a Success, Online Books Prep Launch

Massachusetts sports betting began this week at the state’s three commercial casinos. And state gaming regulators say the first few days of wagering were glitch-free.

Massachusetts sports betting Encore Julian Edelman
Massachusetts sports betting Encore Julian Edelman
Three-time Super Bowl champion Julian Edelman places the first bet at the WynnBet Sportsbook at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Ma., on Jan. 31, 2023. Massachusetts sports betting began without issue at the state’s three commercial casinos. (Image: Encore Boston Harbor)

Massachusetts legalized sports betting last August. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) decided to first allow the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos to open their sportsbooks before online operations begin.

The WynnBet Sportsbook at Encore Boston Harbor, BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Springfield, and Barstool Sportsbook at Plainridge Park debuted their sports betting facilities this past Tuesday, Jan. 31. MGC Executive Director Karen Wells relayed to the commission that the first 48 hours of legal, regulated sports gambling went smoothly.

The launch of the sports wagering at the retail sites, at the three casinos, was successful,” said Wells. “I have not heard of any issues or any problems that have come to light, either technical or otherwise.”

“So far, so good,” Wells concluded.

Big First Bet

Sportsbook openings have become a big deal in newly legalized sports betting states. It’s customary for celebrities and politicians to place the first legal wagers, and that was certainly the case this week in Massachusetts.

At Encore, former New England Patriots star Julian Edelman, who won three Super Bowls while playing in Foxboro with Tom Brady, walked through the casino floor with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist stuffed with $11,000 in cash. When he arrived at the WynnBet Sportsbook, he put it all on the Boston Celtics winning this year’s NBA Finals.

While many first bets are small wagers, most politicians refraining from showing too much enthusiasm about expanded gaming, Edelman went big. With the Celtics’ title odds at +360 at the time of the bet, Edelman would net $39,600 if Boston wins the championship.

WynnBet in January announced Edelman was joining its talent roster as a brand ambassador.

In Springfield, Mayor Domenic Sarno and Boston Bruins hockey legend Ray Bourque did the honors of placing the first bets. No details of their bets were provided.

And in Plainville, another former Patriots star — linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who won two Super Bowls with New England — made the first wager at Barstool. Ninkovich took the Boston Bruins to win the NFL Stanley Cup on +500 odds. How much he wagered wasn’t revealed.

Marching Towards Online Launch

With the retail sportsbooks up and running smoothly, the MGC’s attention is on the forthcoming launch of online operations.

Along with WynnBet, BetMGM, and Barstool, the MGC has found six interactive sportsbooks suitable to operate online wagering. They are DraftKings, FanDuel, Bally’s Interactive, PointsBet, Betway, and Betr.

In states where in-person and online sports betting is allowed, more than 80% of the overall handle — or money wagered — is facilitated online. The MGC is targeting an “early March” launch for online sportsbooks.

While that means online sportsbooks won’t be open in time for the Feb. 12 Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, Massachusetts sports bettors should have online sportsbook access in time for March Madness. The annual men’s college basketball tournament tips off on March 14.

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