BOSTON — Finding a sports book willing to take a bet on the Patriots is about to get easier with Massachusetts gearing up to offer legal wagering on the games.
Beginning Jan. 31, several betting locations will open, according to a timeline finalized this week by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Under the plan, there will be an invitation-only “soft launch” of in-person betting at licensed facilities on Jan. 30 to allow regulators to observe how they handle taking bets from staff and guests. Currently, those venues include Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.
In-person betting would become available to the general public the next day at those facilities, according to the commission.
Mobile betting could follow by early-March, the commission said, unless there are any complications with the applications from companies seeking to offer the wagering.
Ahead of the wagering, MGM Springfield casino says it has built a nearly 5,000-square-foot lounge with stadium seating, a wagering counter and kiosks to place bets, according to its application to regulators.
The Everett casino, which is owned by Wynn Resorts, says its flagship sports betting venue will include 10 betting windows and 29 kiosks, with more than 70 TVs and a 123-foot video wall to broadcast games. The casino also plans to set up betting kiosks in an area of its parking garage for “express” betting.
“We are anticipating a heavy volume of customers given Massachusetts’ reputation as one of the leading sports meccas in the world,” Wynn wrote in its application. “We anticipate that this venue will be one of the most popular destinations in New England for those who want a place to watch the game after placing their bet.”
Massachusetts lawmakers authorized sports wagering in August and for the state to tax and regulate the multibillion-dollar industry. Then-Gov. Charlie Baker, who pushed for several years to legalize sports betting, signed the bill into law.
Under it, sports-betting operators will be taxed at 15% of gross retail wagering sales and 20% for online and fantasy sports wagers.
Operators will be required to pay a licensing fee of $5 million, which must be renewed every five years. Dozens of companies have applied for licenses.
The move to legalize wagering on games was in response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal law prohibiting sports gambling in nearly all states except Nevada.
At least 31 states and the District of Columbia have authorized betting on sports, with wagers collectively hitting a record of more than $57.2 billion last year.
Supporters of the law say it will raise much-needed tax revenue for state and local governments, and help eliminate illegal bookmaking operations.
The Massachusetts law also allows in-state betting on college sports – just not on Massachusetts teams unless they are participating in tournaments such as the NCAA March Madness basketball competition.
Opponents of legalized gambling say the advent of sports betting will mean more people losing their money to state-sponsored gambling and lead to an “epidemic” of youth wagering on a product that some groups have described as being just as addictive as heroin.
“Citizens of the state are already losing more than $3,800 every minute of personal wealth to the Lottery and regional casinos combined, more than $2 billion a year,” said Les Bernal, national director of the group Stop Predatory Gambling. “Commercialized sports gambling will make those life-changing financial losses even more devastating to thousands of Massachusetts families.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.