After a years-long battle to bring sports betting to Massachusetts, the Commonwealth has officially launched the first phase of its legalized gaming plan this week. 

A landmark Supreme Court decision in 2018 to strike down a 1992 federal law banning sports betting paved the way for its domestic legalization. Since that decision, former Gov. Charlie Baker, now the president-elect for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, fought for years to introduce legislation to allow gambling in the state. Each proposal he pushed forward was ultimately rejected by Massachusetts lawmakers. 

Heading into the final days of the 2022 legislative session, all eyes were fixed on a sports betting bill. Disagreements between the Massachusetts House and Senate on the specifics of the bill had previously caused a stalemate. However, on the final day of the session, the bill started to gain momentum toward a compromise. In buzzer-beater fashion, lawmakers in the Massachusetts House and Senate came together and reached a compromise for the bill to institute its legalization in the wee hours of the morning on Aug. 1, 2022. Baker ultimately signed the bill on Aug. 10, officially cementing Massachusetts’ place in the gaming sector. 

In the following months, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission had to develop regulations on wagering, resulting in delayed availability for the public. Thus, a two-phase release plan targeting key sports events was set. The first phase was created to establish in-person betting, before the Super Bowl, at three locations that already have existing facilities: Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, and MGM Springfield in Springfield. The second phase was to release six mobile betting operators before March Madness, targeting an early March release date. These six companies include DraftKings, FanDuel, Betr, Bally Sports, PointsBet, and Betway. Other operators tied to the approved casinos will also have mobile availability.

On Jan. 31, 2023, at 10 a.m., retail betting was officially launched in the Commonwealth. Avid sports fans from throughout the state huddled at each of the select locations to place their wagers. Famous Boston sports legends made their appearances as well, such as retired Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who placed a mind-boggling $11,000 bet on the Celtics to win the title. 

The bill had standard requirements go into effect. The legal betting age was set at 21 years old. A revenue tax of 20% was imposed for online betting and 15% for retail betting. Residents may not bet on an in-state collegiate team unless they are in a major tournament. Additionally, sports with results declared by a judge, such as the Olympics, chess, and Esports, are also prohibited as part of the bill.

The long-awaited release of gambling in a state spoiled by sporting history is exciting. Fans all over the state would tell you ‘it’s about time.’ With a state that has experienced so much success in the sports arena, the people are clamoring, but it’s important to remember to always gamble responsibly. Never bet what you can’t afford. It’s easy to fall into an addiction, which can lead to horrible consequences. If you are affected by gambling addiction or know anyone who may be, resources and support are available. Massachusetts residents can call 1-800-327-500, which is a confidential hotline to speak to a trained specialist for help.