‘All true Massachusetts degenerates were in the house’ for legal sports betting


Illustration by Hailey Akau

Sports betting is legal in the state of Massachusetts as of Jan. 31.

By Rumsha Siddiqui, Sports Editor

After years of pushback in the state legislature, in-person sports betting is officially legal in Massachusetts as of Jan. 31, just in time for the Super Bowl and March Madness, with mobile wagering expected to launch in March. Bets can be placed at Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, and MGM Springfield.

In 2019, former Gov. Charlie Baker introduced legislation to allow sports gambling in the state. However, the House and Senate struggled to find a compromisable bill due to the main difference between their bills in regard to college sports. The legislature reached an agreement on Aug. 1, 2022, then on Aug. 10, Baker signed a bill making Massachusetts the 36th U.S. state to legalize sports betting. 

Gamblers, who must be 21 years or older to bet on sports, can wager on professional and collegiate sports, though betting on in-state college teams is not allowed unless the team is participating in a postseason NCAA tournament.

Beverly, Mass.’s Democratic Rep. Jerry Parisella was a driving force in legalizing sports betting because of its potential economic benefits.

“My colleagues and I felt it was important to join our New England neighbors in bringing sports betting out of the black market and into a safe, regulated industry where consumers and operators can enjoy full protection under the law,” Parisella said in an interview with The Beacon. “Nearly 30 percent of last year’s Super Bowl bets in New Hampshire were placed by Massachusetts residents, so bringing those folks back to our state made economic sense.”

Parisella said that the state would generate about $60 million in annual revenue and an initial $70 to $80 million in licensing fees. Sports betting will also create new employment opportunities as each of the state’s casinos invested in creating on-site sports betting facilities, with the state’s racetracks likely to follow, all of which will provide a variety of new jobs.

The state’s two racetracks, Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park, indicated plans to build sports betting lounges, strengthening the industry while creating jobs at the same time,” Parisella said.

17.5 percent of the state’s wagering tax revenue from sports betting will be put toward the Workforce Investment Trust Fund, which promotes job opportunities in low-income communities. Another nine percent is allocated to the Public Health Trust Fund, which focuses on preventing and treating problem gambling.

“One important aspect of the legislation was making sure the additional revenue went to where it was most needed,” Parisella said.

Each participating casino held opening ceremonies for the first legal sports wagers with notable guests, like former Boston athletes Johnny Damon, Ty Law, and Cedric Maxwell. Encore Boston Harbor’s 10 a.m. opening ceremony on Jan. 31 kicked off in the WynnBett Kiosk Room as 32 individuals placed bets on various sports. Social media personality and “Boston Celtics SuperFan” KJ Green, better known by his Instagram handle @GreenRunsDeep, was among the first to place a bet. The launch concluded with former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman placing $11,000 on the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Championship.

“When sports betting became legal in Massachusetts I was jumping for joy,” Green said in an interview with The Beacon. Green also placed his first legal bet on the Celtics winning the NBA Finals. However, the underwhelming environment at Encore Boston Harbor took away from the excitement of the moment.

“Placing my first bet at Encore wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be,” Green said. “Unfortunately, it was a Tuesday and the Celtics were off so the buzz wasn’t there for me personally, but overall it was a cool experience. All true Massachusetts degenerates were in the house on Tuesday, that’s for sure, I didn’t want to miss that.”

Green also expressed concerns with the state’s regulations surrounding sports wagering profits.

“There are a lot of blurry rules [the state has] made, such as taxes and stuff that they say will depend on how much you win, and they don’t specify the ‘how much,’” Green said.

Massachusetts taxes gambling income at five percent. If an individual wins above $5000, the casino or sportsbook must withhold 24 percent and issue a Form W-2G which documents their withholdings

The Super Bowl is projected to generate over $7 million in total bets—if online betting were allowed, this number would have exceeded $49 million statewide. The Celtics and Boston Bruins are each the current favorite to win their respective championships, encouraging Massachusetts gamblers.

Should concerns about gambling addiction arise, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has implemented consumer protections since the sports betting legislature was passed. MGC created the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, which allows individuals to voluntarily exclude themselves from sports wagering for a predetermined amount of time. Additionally, each casino has GameSense Information Centers that offer on-site resources to educate patrons with concerns about excessive gambling.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in consumer safety and legal protections, the legalization of sports betting follows that example accordingly,” Parisella said.