Sep 8, 2023 - Sports

First Massachusetts NFL season with legal sports betting kicks off

Animated illustration of two flying football helmets colliding and leaving behind a smoky dollar sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This NFL season will not only be a major test for New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, but also for sportsbooks in Massachusetts.

Why it matters: The gaming industry is closely watching how the pro football season influences Massachusetts' first year of legalized sports betting.

Driving the news: Bets are pouring in for the Patriots, though the Philadelphia Eagles are favored to win Sunday's game by four points, according to Boston-based DraftKings.

State of play: The Patriots are favored to make it to the playoffs and are one of the most likely teams to win the Super Bowl, per DraftKings' projections.

Yes, but: So far, most DraftKings users in Massachusetts are putting their money on other teams.

  • Just 13% of bettors backed the Patriots as the likely winners of the AFC East tournament. Most bet on the Buffalo Bills or New York Jets.
  • Only 16% have bet the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.

Between the lines: Even though the state only recently legalized the industry, Massachusetts hosts eight mobile sportsbooks.

  • In-person betting is now allowed at three casinos, including Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.

What they're saying: "Sports betting has come to roost in the state where they have hometown teams, not just in the Patriots, but in sports betting operators," says Brendan Bussmann, a gaming industry analyst with Las Vegas-based B Global.

Zoom out: Legal sports betting is live in 35 states and Washington, D.C., and it's big business for pro football, says Richard McGowan, a professor who studies gambling at Boston College.

  • The sports betting industry reported nearly $5.2 billion in gross revenue between January and June 2023, per the American Gaming Association.
  • Team sponsorship revenues linked to sports betting increased 14% between 2021 and 2022, according to global sports intelligence company SponsorsUnited.

What we're watching: Sports betting operators made about $230 million in taxable gaming revenue in Massachusetts by the end of July, according to state regulators. This will likely garner roughly $45.8 million in state tax revenue — within reach of politicians' annual estimate of $60 million.

  • But with licensing fees and other costs, the state says it has collected $45.8 million since Jan. 31.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show sports betting operators in Massachusetts have made about $230 million (not $29.4 million) in gaming revenue, which has yielded roughly $45.8 million (not $5.8 million) in state tax revenue, as of the end of July.

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