Will Massachusetts Online Sportsbooks Launch in Time for March Madness?
Fans in Massachusetts weren’t able to bet online for the Super Bowl, but they are hoping to participate in online sports betting in Massachusetts for March Madness.
The men’s basketball NCAA Tournament kicks off on Tuesday, March 14, and the women’s NCAA Tournament tips March 15.
As of now, online sports betting in Massachusetts is set to launch Friday, March 10. That would allow state residents to place legal online sports bets for March Madness 2023.
But … is there a chance Massachusetts regulators won’t hit that March 10 goal?
Potential Setbacks for Online Sports Betting in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Karen Wells is aware of the importance of a pre-March Madness launch. However, whether or not Wells’ proposed launch date of March 10 is met is dependent on the sportsbooks.
“It’s really dependent on the quality of the internal control submissions the applicants have submitted,” Wells said at a recent MGC meeting. “If they have done a fantastic job and are good to go, we can get this done more quickly. But if they can’t respond or do not respond to modifications to internal control submissions, that impacts the timeline. We do have the option of launching some but not all of the operators.”
Considering the financial ramifications of March Madness betting, you would expect the online operators to comply in a timely fashion. However, the process of getting Massachusetts sports betting off the ground has been anything but simple.
Here are some of the headlines since the signing of the bill allowed sports betting in the state.
- MGC delays vote for Plainridge Park Casino’s retail betting license due to relationship with Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy.
- The MGC delays MGM Springfield Casino’s retail sports betting license due to unclear distinction between retail and online relationship with BetMGM.
- MGC delayed vote on Caesars’ online sports betting license due to previous indiscretions, partnerships with colleges, etc.
One of the most common themes of the outlined delays and others is advertising practices. Both verbally and with voting decisions, the MGC has made it clear they want to limit advertising to those 21 and younger.
Given the MGC’s commitment to following through on responsible practices, it appears the sportsbooks’ timelines and follow-through on updating internal control documentation will indeed impact the launch date.
Impact of Missing March Madness
Last year, the American Gaming Association projected an estimated 45 million Americans would place at least one wager on a March Madness game, totaling upward of $3.1 billion.
Multiple states have signed sports betting into law since last year, which could significantly increase the wager total this year. We predicted more than $7 million in total retail bets were placed on the Super Bowl in Massachusetts. If online sports betting were legal at the time, however, we projected it would have exceeded $49 million statewide.
“Legal Super Bowl betting has finally arrived for folks in Massachusetts,” said Eric Ramsey, lead market analyst for Play MA. “But the staggered start means it won’t significantly contribute to the national totals this year. Local sportsbooks will have the hottest tickets in town on Super Bowl Sunday, though, and this game is really just an appetizer for what figures to be a feast of online sports betting in the seasons ahead.”
The Super Bowl is just one game. March Madness entails multiple games over multiple weeks. That means the online sportsbooks stand to miss out on millions more if the date is postponed.
However, the likelihood of all the licensed online sportsbooks not being able to launch on March 10 is minuscule, so residents should have at least a couple of options to consider for the NCAA Tournament.