SPRINGFIELD — As retail sports betting went live Tuesday in Massachusetts, bettors who attended a jovial BetMGM Sportsbook ribbon-cutting ceremony at MGM Springfield were greeted with an expansive, life-size poster of Kevin Garnett.
Garnett, a 2008 NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and 2021 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is captured on the 15-foot poster palming a basketball with his right hand while holding a smartphone with a BetMGM logo in his left.
Though Garnett was only seen at the opening of Tuesday’s retail sportsbook in Springfield in poster form, another modern Boston sports great was there in person to place one of the ceremonial first bets. Former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque placed a wager Tuesday on the Bruins to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup later this year. If the Bruins prevail in June, the proceeds from Bourque’s $100 wager on the overwhelming Stanley Cup favorites (+450) to win the Cup will be donated to his foundation.
Bourque, who won the Norris Trophy for the league’s top defenseman five times with the Bruins, was joined by three Massachusetts politicians in placing the book’s first wagers. The local pols, state Sen. Adam Gomez, Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, all wagered on the Super Bowl.
“This has been a long time coming and brings yet another chapter of innovation to enhance the operations and development at MGM Springfield,” Sarno said.
In-person sports betting is officially live in Massachusetts as of 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Here's what it looked like at MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor. #mapoli #sportsbetting https://t.co/vYpbbE9Tir
— Chris Van Buskirk (@byChrisVan) January 31, 2023
Launch a ‘humbling’ experience for local pol
Local politicians are optimistic that the debut of retail sports betting will provide a boon to the Springfield area. Gonzalez, a Democrat, represents the state’s 10th Hampden district, an area that covers a portion of the city of Springfield. Placing a $50 wager on the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl at -125 odds, he said he believes that the opening of the sportsbook will bring an influx of visitors to the casino.
Gomez, another Springfield Democrat, sponsored Senate legislation last year to support legalized sports wagering. He took the other side in the Super Bowl, placing a $100 bet on the Chiefs at +105 on the moneyline. All four invitees pledged to donate their potential winnings to charity.
“To see that newly passed law in action today in my very own city is a humbling experience.” Gomez said. “It’s a momentous occasion to have some of the [state’s] first wagers on sports betting take place in Springfield today.”
MGM Springfield was one of three sportsbooks to open windows at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, along with Encore Boston Harbor (WynnBET), and Plainridge Park Casino (Barstool Sportsbook).
House Speaker Ronald Mariano was among the first bettors at Encore Boston Harbor, where he put down $50 each for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup and the Celtics to win the NBA Championship. “First bets” were also placed at 10 a.m. by 32 selected customers in the sportsbook’s Kiosk Room. Several retired local sports stars, including former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon and onetime Celtics standout Cedric Maxwell, wagered at the teller windows at 10:30 a.m.
At Plainridge Park, a casino located minutes from Gillette Stadium, former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich made an appearance at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Ninkovich put down $50 on the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. During football season, the location may become a pit stop for Pats fans on their way to the stadium.
Online launch date to be determined
The retail sportsbooks will receive a head start of at least a month over digital counterparts before online sports wagering begins in March. Five commissioners from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, including Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein, attended Tuesday’s ceremony at MGM Springfield. The MGC has not formally set a universal launch date for mobile sports betting.
The three sportsbooks are not yet able to accept pre-registrants for online accounts. The MGC has not indicated whether sports betting customers will be able to open online accounts in February, but an industry source told Sports Handle that such sign-ups across the state will be available soon.
Massachusetts sports betting is live. pic.twitter.com/Ilfiqmu2BH
— Sammy P (@spshoot) January 31, 2023
Bringing revenue back to the Bay State
Before the launch of mobile in March, Massachusetts bettors will have to travel to in-person books to wager on the Super Bowl and other events.
One bettor, who did not provide his name, told Sports Handle Tuesday that he has visited the Las Vegas Strip “10 to 12 times” over the last three decades for March Madness. The customer, a UMass season ticket holder, recalled another vacation to Aruba where he placed a bet on the Minutemen from an offshore sportsbook. Before the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts, the bettor drove across the border to Rhode Island on several occasions to place wagers.
Another bettor who also wished to remain anonymous placed a $5, two-leg parlay at a BetMGM kiosk inside the sportsbook area. The customer, whose daughter attends Providence College, bet on the Celtics to win the NBA title (+400) with Providence to win the national championship in men’s basketball (+10000). The longshot parlay would pay more than $2,500 on a $5 bet. The bettor indicated that before this week, he would often make a short trek into Connecticut to place wagers on his phone while completing grocery shopping for his wife.
Massachusetts has about 7.2 million residents, making it the nation’s 15th most populous state, just behind Arizona. From a sports betting perspective, there are a number of similarities between the two states considering that both are home to franchises from each of North America’s top four professional sports leagues.
Massachusetts also ranks among the nation’s top states economically per capita, giving BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt optimism that the state will be one of BetMGM’s top markets in the country. Under one measure, Massachusetts ranked second nationally in per capita GDP in 2021 ($76,324), trailing only New York.
New York ended 2022 with a nation-high sports betting handle in excess of $16 billion on the year.
“I think we have a recipe of what you’re seeing in New York — real enthusiasm and a lot of action,” Greenblatt told Sports Handle.