Mobile sportsbook goes live Friday at 10am in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is now joining the majority of US states in allowing people to bet on sports games from their phones. And Boston-based DraftKings, one of the biggest companies in the mobile gaming market, is gearing up for big deals.
“The opportunity to launch our biggest product in Massachusetts means a lot,” said Matt Kalish, co-founder of DraftKings, in an interview.
Kalish said he felt his company, which operates out of a stadium-like row of offices on Back Bay, had “home advantage.”
“I know we all have a strong belief that we have to do very well in Massachusetts,” he said. Kalish co-founded DraftKings with his friends Jason Robins and Paul Liberman in a spare room in Watertown.
DraftKings started with everyday fantasy sports – real athletes playing on fictional teams designed by users. But the company took off after the Supreme Court overturned a law banning sports betting in 2018.
Mobile gambling companies jumped at the opportunity to allow users to bet on games from their phones
“It’s been one condition after another since then,” Kalish said.
DraftKings and other operators like FanDuel and BetMGM spent hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning for legalized sports betting in Massachusetts. Lawmakers passed legislation this summer making Massachusetts the 36th state to allow commercial sports betting.
DraftKings and its competitors run big promotions to bring new users online. Ads on billboards, television and social media offer hundreds of dollars in credits called “bonus bets”.
“They expect to get that [money] long term,” says Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. “If I can get you excited with my app now, the $200 I can spend on you today will be tiny compared to the amount that you will spend on me now and forever.”
Sports betting at the state’s casinos went live in January, but Matheson predicts around 90% of sports betting will be placed online after Friday.
Matheson said the sheer number of ads covering the state shows how much money is at stake. Using data from New Jersey and Arizona, he estimates that Massachusetts gamblers will place about $5 billion in sports betting annually.
That means up to $60 million in new taxes, according to state projections.
Sports betting involves risk. Public health experts warn that immigrant communities, young people and those in recovery are more vulnerable to problem gambling.
Matheson said his Holy Cross students often ask him about his thoughts on sports betting.
“As far as it’s an entertainment product, it’s great,” Matheson said. “But I’m telling you, if you’re trying to actually make money from it, it’s probably a pretty expensive habit for you to get into.”
Editor’s Note: People struggling with gambling addiction can call 1-800-327-5050 or visit https://gamblinghelplinema.org to speak to a trained specialist and get support. The services are available 24/7 in multiple languages and are free and confidential.