2022 saw numerous states break their own records for sports wagering revenue. How do Massachusetts and the other ‘new states on the block’ measure up for 2023?
Can Massachusetts make the same splash in the sports wagering industry this year that New York made in 2022?
Mobile sports wagering is set to launch in the Bay State in early March, and already 11 online sportsbooks have secured Massachusetts licenses and will be raring to go just in time for the start of March Madness and what promises to be a busy spring in New England sports.
But Massachusetts is set to receive a sneak preview of the new industry next week, as in-person sports wagering begins on January 31. Yes, just in time for Super Bowl LVII.
Massachusetts Sports Betting
Massachusetts legalized sports wagering in mid-2022, with Governor Charlie Baker signing a bill into law on August 10. But no sportsbooks became immediately available. That’s all about to change, of course.
The approved sports wagering bill laid out the following rules:
- A 20% tax rate for online sports betting and a 15% tax rate for retail
- A ban on in-state college teams (except when they are playing in tournaments)
- Casinos and racetracks receive sports betting licenses
- 15 online sports betting licenses available
- Credit card deposits for funding accounts are prohibited
The second condition regarding in-state college teams means while you won’t be able to bet on say, Boston College football games, you CAN bet on a Harvard Crimson basketball game if they qualify for March Madness.
Massachusetts Sports Wagering Handle
A quick review – for gambling purposes, ‘handle’ is the total money wagered by bettors over a given period of time. It’s not how much the sportsbook makes (that’s ‘hold’) or how much the state itself makes (that’s revenue).
There are a few factors we can look for when attempting to predict handle:
- Number of residents in a state – obviously, Massachusetts and its 7 million people will have a leg up on say, nearby Rhode Island with 1.1 million residents.
- Number of nearby options/alternatives – neighboring states New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all have legal sports betting. So it’s unlikely people will come to Massachusetts simply to bet. However, New England’s most popular professional teams play in Massachusetts. This can help the cause with fans placing wagers at games, whether in-person or on mobile.
- Sports’ place in culture – Massachusetts has a major sports team in each of the ‘big four’ U.S. sports, and there are few cities more supportive of their teams than Boston. Should the Bruins and Celtics recent success carry over to this spring’s playoffs, Massachusetts should see massive handle figures shortly after mobile wagering goes live in March.
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How Much Will Massachusetts Make from Sports Gambling?
New York set a U.S. record in 2022 with a previously unheard-of $16.2 billion-dollar handle.
Although mobile sports wagering wasn’t legal in New York until early 2022, the state already ranks #5 in the U.S. in historical handle. If this continues, it should be #1 no later than mid-2024.
Here’s the rest of the list. And keep in mind that with the exception of Nevada none of these states had legalized sports wagering until mid-2018:
|STATE||WHEN WAGERING BEGAN||TOTAL HANDLE|
|New Jersey||June 2018||$33.73 billion|
|Nevada||1972 (but these numbers are since June 2018)||$28.65 billion|
|Pennsylvania||November 2018||$18.89 billion|
|Illinois||June 2020||$17.63 billion|
|New York||January 2022||$16.65 billion|
|Indiana||September 2019||$10.5 billion|
|Colorado||May 2020||$9.7 billion|
|Michigan||March 2020||$8.42 billion|
|Virginia||January 2021||$7.63 billion|
|Tennessee||November 2020||$6.89 billion|
The guess here is that on an annual basis, Massachusetts will fit snugly in the middle of the Top 10. It will be hard to approach New York – an equally sports-mad state with three times the population.
But with readily available wagering, plenty of local interest, and an affluent population (Massachusetts had the 2nd-highest per capita income by state as of 2021) it wouldn’t be surprising to see Massachusetts approach $5 billion or more in handle during 2023, and move closer to $10 billion during 2024, their first full year of legalized sports wagering.
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However, another state getting its start in legalized wagering in 2023 appears poised to challenge New York at the very top of the list…
Could Ohio Be the Biggest State for Sports Gambling?
The first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio took place almost literally as 2023 began, when legendary Cleveland Browns QB Bernie Kosar placed a moneyline wager on the Browns.
Since, it’s been full-speed ahead in the Buckeye State. Early reviews indicate that Ohio could be a hidden gem in the sports wagering market.
In the first two days of legalized wagering, 11.3 million geolocation transactions took place in Ohio. This was compared to 9 million in New York during those two days.
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Now some of it may be the excitement of a new thing. But on the other hand, Ohio boasts everything a state needs to be a top contender on the sports betting leaderboard:
- A robust population (over 12 million people)
- Sports-mad fanbase (at least one team in all four major sports, plus the Ohio State Buckeyes, one of college sports’ most successful programs)
- Ample opportunity (up to 25 legal sportsbooks can set up shop in Ohio)
The state enjoyed a strong kickoff in January with the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff run. It can sustain its momentum through March Madness, the NBA and NHL playoffs, and Major League Baseball too.
But when Ohio gets its hands around a full pro and college football season in the fall of 2023? The sky is the limit!
Other New Sports Betting States in 2023
Maryland Sports Wagering
Maryland has enjoyed sports wagering since December 2021. But mobile wagering just went live in November.
In that time, the state saw its handle climb from $39 million in October 2022 to almost a half-billion dollars ($497 million) in December 2022.
It’s clear that mobile wagering is the key to these robust handle figures. At this pace, Maryland will be threatening to crack the Top 10 on our leaderboard within a couple years.
Kansas Sports Wagering
Kansas started out in September 2022 with a retail and mobile launch. The state shows consistent growth with a top month of $189 million in handle during October.
With less than 3 million people in the state, the Top 10 may be an uphill climb for the Sunflower State. But it will be interesting to see if the wildly successful Kansas Jayhawks’ March Madness run can turn Kansas into a unicorn of sorts in sports betting – a state that makes more during basketball season than during football season.