Mobile sports betting in Massachusetts is set to go live in time for March Madness, and much of the focus has been placed on the tremendous amount of profit to be made. House Speaker Ron Mariano said it best, before apologizing for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission taking six months to start accepting bets after the legalization:
“I think you’re looking at a potential gold mine… I really think they could have gone a little faster. But obviously they erred on the side of caution and took their time and wanted to make sure there were no major mistakes.”
Concerns Regarding Negative Impact
There are some concerns about the change to Massachusetts gambling laws and the potential for a negative affect on Massachusetts residents. The immediate hiccup in which multiple casinos (retail sports betting has already gone live) allowed banned bets on in-state college games has raised a red flag. Particularly considering that they are unlikely to face any significant ramifications for this gaff.
In states where online sports betting is legal, an estimated 50 million people placed a bet on the Super Bowl this year. That is close to 20% of Americans of legal betting age. Critics of legal sports betting and addiction experts have concerns about the potential impact of legal sports betting throughout the nation, especially with the upcoming launch of specific MA sports betting promos. Some residents are concerned for the populace’s well-being, while others are excited about legalized sports betting and believe the revenue will benefit the state.
Arguments in Favor of Massachusetts Legal Sports Betting
Among those who are gung-ho for legalization is Robert Westerfield, Vice President of Casino Operations at MGM Springfield. Westerfield stated:
“We prepared for this for a long time, now that it’s finally here, we’re super thrilled… the bets will be in the thousands and the amount of money will be, who knows, through the roof.”
Three retail casinos in MA have been offering legal sports betting since January 31st, while March 10th is the expected launch date for online sports betting in the commonwealth. This will be right in time for the famous March Madness basketball tournament and will mean a ton of revenue to be made by sportsbooks in Massachusetts.
The American Gaming Association strongly argues for legalized sports betting in MA. Illegal sports betting on offshore sportsbooks or using local bookies is rampant in the US. Officials at the Association claim that an estimated 64 billion dollars were illegally bet in 2022. According to Cait DeBaun, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Responsibility at the American Gaming Association, this number was likely upwards of $150 billion before many states legalized sports betting.
This means considerable progress toward sports betting in the US becoming a legal practice. Not to mention massive amounts of tax revenue and money put into the US economy rather than siphoned off to offshore sports betting operators. Another argument made by DeBaun is that additional consumer protection is available through legal sportsbooks, ensuring that bettors are paid out.
Are MA Sports Bettors Being Protected?
Still, a paramount concern is whether or not sports bettors in Massachusetts are adequately educated and protected as to the potential dangers of problem gambling. Mark Vander Linden is the Director of Research and Responsible Gaming at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. He stated:
“We recognize that gambling is not a risk-free form of entertainment. A key is providing people with the right tools as they can make that informed choice and keep playing as safe as possible.”
We have seen some signs from retail operators in MA that measures are being taken to educate and protect bettors. Brochures explaining the risks of gambling are available throughout the casinos. Information centers are open 16 hours a day with trained advisors to educate bettors. This includes explaining the nature of sports gambling, how betting lines and betting odds work, how to budget for betting, and how to balance sports gambling as a healthy part of your life.
The Gaming Commission has even created a “Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program,” enabling people to set limits on their sports betting or disable their ability to bet. This is a powerful option for those who know they cannot control their gambling and is a sign of good faith toward the well-being of the community from the sportsbook operators.