SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — The legalization of mobile sports gambling in Massachusetts coincides with the time of college basketball tournaments and fans are expected to bet more than ever this year, but one economist said that sports gambling benefit the state coffers, but won’t be a financial godsend
“Big, as big or bigger than we expected,” said Matthew Bain of PlayMA.
PlayMA’s Bain told Western Mass News it’s been a successful launch weekend for mobile sports betting in Massachusetts, with apps racking up more than eight million views and it’s no surprise which teams got the most bets.
“The Boston Bruins were the most drafted team in Draft Kings on the day of publication. Over 74 percent of all NBA Futures, NBA Finals bets at BetMGM have been placed on Celtics,” Bain added.
After on-site sports betting began on January 31st, there was a major push to get mobile betting up and running for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament this week.
“It was fun and exciting when they started betting at MGM and the other casinos here in Massachusetts, but honestly, all the real money is on your phone,” said Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross .
Ninety percent of all sports betting is done on mobile, said Matheson, who has studied sports betting in states where it’s been legal for several years.
“Even in Las Vegas, the king of casinos, two-thirds of all the Las Vegas action happens on people’s cell phones and not in any of the 50 major casinos along the Strip,” Matheson explained.
New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports betting in 2018, and since then the American Gaming Association has seen exponential growth in the amount of money wagered.
“Five years ago we talked about March Madness. There was only one state in the country where Americans could legally bet on the tournament, and this year it’s legal in 36 states and DC,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association.
Clark told us that Americans are expected to bet more than ever on the tournament games: $15.5 billion. In Massachusetts, Metheson expects about $5 billion worth of bets to be placed each year, a portion of which will be tax revenue for the state.
“So it’s actually surprisingly small, okay, because even though we’ve wagered $5 billion, the only thing that’s taxed is the net income from sports betting,” Matheson noted.
Sports betting is expected to make $300 million a year and is taxed at around 20 percent. Matheson expects the state to receive annual tax revenues of $50 million to $100 million as a result. “This will not be a huge boon to the Massachusetts economy,” Matheson added.
Matheson said the state makes only about a cent for every dollar wagered on sports betting, while 35 cents for every dollar spent on the lottery goes to the state coffers.
“To the extent that sports betting cannibalizes other more profitable things, it may not be a good thing for the state,” Matheson said.
However, MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley said it was far better than Massachusetts residents to cross state lines to place their bets.
“Think of this tax revenue that has been leaving the State for years, now we’re going to keep it here in the Commonwealth,” Kelley explained.
The American Gaming Association said regulating sports betting puts an end to the predatory, underground sports betting market and generates tax revenues that can have positive effects.
“So you see, in some states, tens of millions of dollars a year go to support critical infrastructure, support education, support athletics, youth athletics, or support responsible gambling and problem gambling resources,” Clark said.
Matheson said sports betting has a different target audience than the lottery – college-educated young men – and this could open up new demographics to gambling addiction. For assistance, call the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline at (800) 327-5050.
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