Universal Sportsbook Start Dates vs. Staggered Start Dates 

Written By Chris Gerlacher on October 4, 2022
Massachusetts lawmakers sports betting meeting

Massachusetts sports betting continues to be held up by a crucial launch question: whether sports betting should have a universal start date or a staggered launch. There are pros and cons to both, but they’re not equally harmful or beneficial for both sides. A universal start date would be better for all the books, while a staggered launch would benefit Massachusetts sports bettors. Here’s how the pros and cons stack up. 

Universal Sportsbook Start Date vs. Staggered Start Date

The debate over whether sportsbooks should have a universal start date or a staggered start date revolves around a game theory problem. A universal sportsbook start date means all the sportsbooks launch at the same time. A staggered start date means that sportsbooks would launch as they’re approved. 

The benefits for sports bettors are clear. A staggered start date would result in sportsbooks going live sooner. Then, sports betting would launch when the first sportsbook operator was approved to go live. 

However, it would also mean that whichever sportsbook launched first would get a head start on customer acquisition. Securing an early lead can be critical to maintaining an early lead. Any book can offer welcome bonuses that attract customers. But retaining them requires a relationship that can’t be built from advertisements. Any customer retention strategy is grounded in being on the app, so market access is critical.

If potential Massachusetts sportsbooks knew which of them would launch in which order, their strategies may be different. A sportsbook that knew it would be first to market could support a staggered launch, knowing it would reap the long-term benefits of customer retention and greater market share. 

But the books don’t know who will get licensed and approved for launch in which order. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is flooded with applications not only for sportsbooks, but also for betting kiosks and technology providers. Even seasoned sportsbooks with legal teams specializing in license applications aren’t guaranteed to be first. 

Since no one is sure they’ll be first to market, and each sportsbook has a low chance of being first, sportsbooks have come together to support a universal launch. 

Related news: $5 Million: Lost Tax Revenue Each Month Without MA Sports Betting This Football Season

Massachusetts Sportsbook Applicants 

Massachusetts’ sportsbook applicants include major brands that bettors have probably heard of already. They include major brands like: 

While these aren’t the only sportsbook brands interested in licensing, they’re among the largest. If any of these were to launch before the others, the long-term advantage would be formidable. Each of these brands offers large welcome bonuses in their new markets. So, any one of them could attract many bettors up front. 

Each of these sportsbook brands offers a welcome bonus that’s at least $1,000 in other markets. (Caesars Sportsbook is a little higher — it settled at $1,250.) These are tempting, eye-popping bonus amounts that could encourage many bettors to sign up quickly. With all those bettors, a sportsbook could go to work on customer retention, feeding bettors smaller bonuses around their favorite events. 

Once bettors are at one sportsbook they like, they may not want to sign up for another. Signing up for an online sportsbook isn’t like creating a new email or signing up for Twitter. Sportsbooks require at least part of bettors’ social security numbers and sometimes require additional uploads of government-issued IDs and utility bills. 

These stringent measures ensure that sportsbooks don’t award sportsbook winnings to money launderers or terrorists. But they also add registration steps that bettors may only want to take once. 

While Massachusetts sports bettors may want sports betting early, the sportsbooks themselves are working to ensure that Massachusetts’ sports betting industry launches with all of them at once, leading to a later but more competitive launch.  

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Chris Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher is a lead writer for Play MA. He is a versatile, experienced writer with a portfolio that ranges from political and legislative pieces to sports and sports betting. Gerlacher is a devout Broncos fan, for better or for worse, living in the foothills of Arvada, CO.

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