In-Person Sports Wagering Launches with Flurry of Events at MA Sportsbooks

Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth launched as scheduled on Tuesday, January 31 following six months of public meetings, regulation development, and application review.

The launch came after former Governor Charlie Baker signed into law An Act to Regulate Sports Wagering (House Bill No. 5164) on August 10, 2022. In the six-plus months that have followed, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has undertaken a vigorous, thorough and expedient promulgation process to stand up the sports wagering industry in the Commonwealth. That work, in part, began a new phase Tuesday as Sports Wagering launched at Massachusetts’ Category 1 Licensees at 10 a.m. on the morning of January 31.

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The state’s three Category 1 Sports Wagering Operator Licensees – Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino – all planned out and executed a number of different events to commemorate the historic day for the Commonwealth and its citizens.

The new center of all things sports wagering at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Massachusetts. (Dave Souza/2023)

Encore Boston Harbor (EBH) opened its WynnBet sportsbook as wagering began at 10 a.m. The first bets at the location were cast by four members of the Boston sports scene, with former Patriot Ty Law, former Red Sox Johnny Damon, former Bruin Shawn Thornton, and former Celtic Cedric Maxwell casting bets at EBH.

Later that evening, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Rep. Ron Mariano (D-3rd Norfolk) made another ceremonial “first bet” at EBH. Rep. Mariano was serving in his role as Speaker when the Massachusetts Legislature sent House Bill No. 5164 to Gov. Baker’s desk in Summer 2022.

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Former New England Patriot Julian Edelman also joined EBH to mark the launch by wagering on the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals. Former Patriot Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson was also in attendance.

Across the state, MGM Springfield hosted MGC Commissioners and staff for Tuesday’s 10 a.m. launch. In a ceremony preceding sports wagering’s opening, officials from the casino, its sportsbook partner BetMGM, and other local officials spoke on the historic day, including MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein speaks to the crowd at MGM Springfield the morning of January 31, 2023 minutes before sports wagering launched in the Commonwealth. (Dave Souza/2023)

“The launch of in-person sports wagering is a major milestone for the Commonwealth, the Commission, and the people of Massachusetts,” said Chair Judd-Stein. “I am especially proud of all the hard work MGC staff and the licensees have dedicated to make this day happen, and I’m looking forward to continuing that work as we prepare for the launch of mobile sports wagering in early March.”

At 10:01 a.m., Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno placed the first legal sports wager at the location along with State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Hampden) and State Representative Carlos Gonzalez (D-10th Hampden). Also among those to make the opening bets at MGM Springfield was former Boston Bruins defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. Bourque wagered on the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup.

L to R: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, former Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque, State Senator Adam Gomez, and State Representative Carlos Gonzalez show off their bet slips after casting the first sports wagers at MGM Springfield. (Dave Souza/2023)

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In Plainville, former New England Patriot and current ESPN analyst Rob Ninkovich placed Plainridge Park Casino’s (PPC) ceremonial “first bet” just after 1 p.m.; Ninkovich also bet on the Bruins to win their seventh Stanley Cup. PPC is located just a few miles down Route 1 from Gillette Stadium, where Ninkovich spent eight years as a member of the Patriots.

MGC Commissioners join Plainridge Park Casino General Manager North Grounsell to cut the ceremonial ribbon to commemorate the launch of sports wagering at the casino on January 31, 2023. (Dave Souza/2023)

State and town representatives from the surrounding area were in attendance for PPC’s event, which was preceded by a ribbon cutting. PPC also presented a $10,000 charitable contribution to the Old Colony Habitat for Humanity.

Plainridge Park Casino presents a check for $10,000 to the Old Colony Habitat for Humanity during their sports wagering launch event on January 31, 2023. (Dave Souza/2023)

On hand at each of the openings were representatives from GameSense, the innovative and comprehensive responsible gaming strategy adopted by the MGC. In launching sports wagering, the MGC placed an emphasis on responsible gaming and each licensee’s commitment to protecting players. Just last week the MGC announced the launch of a voluntary self-exclusion list specifically for sports wagering.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein, Commissioners Eileen O’Brien and Jordan Maynard pose with Research and Responsible Gaming Director Mark Vander Linden and GameSense staff at the GameSense location at Encore Boston Harbor. (Dave Souza/2023)

Individuals interested in excluding themselves from retail sportsbooks or the mobile/online sports wagering apps scheduled to launch in the weeks ahead can do so by visiting the MGC’s website, by phone, or in person.

A GameSense official at Encore Boston Harbor shows off the back of his shirt during the casino’s sports wagering launch on January 31, 2023. Want to know what it means? Talk to a GameSense Advisor online or in-person at one of our licensees. (Dave Souza/2023)

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Check out the MGC’s slideshow chronicling In-Person Sports Wagering Launch Day across all three Category 1 Licensees – Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino. 

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