SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) – The legalization of mobile sports gambling in Massachusetts coincides with the college basketball tournament and fans are expected to bet more than ever this year, but one economist said that while sports gambling is good for the state treasury, it will not be an unexpected financial gain
“Big, as big or bigger than we expected,” said PlayMA’s Matthew Bain.
PlayMA’s Bain told Western Mass News it was a successful launch weekend for mobile sports betting in Massachusetts with apps receiving more than eight million hits and it’s no surprise which teams were bet on the most.
“The Boston Bruins were Draftkings’ top betting team on opening day. Over 74 percent of all BetMGM NBA Futures and Finals bets were on the Celtics,” Bain added.
After in-person sports betting began on January 31, there was a big push to get mobile betting up and running for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament this week.
“It was fun and exciting when betting started at MGM and the other casinos here in Massachusetts, but quite frankly, all the real money is on your phone,” said Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross.
Ninety percent of all sports betting is done on mobile devices, said Mathison, who has studied sports gambling in states where it’s legal for several years.
“Even in Las Vegas, the king of the casinos, two-thirds of all the action in Las Vegas happens on people’s phones, not in any of the 50 major casinos on the Strip,” Matheson explained.
New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports betting in 2018, and since then, the American Gaming Association has reported an exponential growth in wagers.
“Five years ago we were talking 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 the District of Columbia,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association.
Clark told us Americans are expected to bet more than ever on tournament games: $15.5 billion. In Massachusetts, Matheson expects about $5 billion worth of bets are made each year, some of which becomes tax revenue for the state.
“So it’s actually surprisingly small, okay, because even though we have $5 billion at stake, the only thing that gets taxed is the net revenue from sports betting,” Matheson noted.
Sports betting is expected to make $300 million a year and is taxed at about 20 percent. Matheson expects that would leave the state with $50 million to $100 million in annual tax revenue. “It’s not going to be a huge boon to the Massachusetts economy,” Matheson added.
Mathison said the state makes only about a cent on every dollar wagered on sports betting, while 35 cents of every dollar spent on the lottery goes into state coffers.
“So to the extent that sports gambling is cannibalizing other more lucrative things, that may not actually be a good thing for the state,” Matheson said.
However, MGM Springfield President Chris Kelly said it’s much better than Massachusetts residents crossing state lines to place their bets.
“Think about that tax revenue that’s been going out of the state for years, now we’re going to keep it here in the Commonwealth,” Kelly explained.
The American Gaming Association said regulating sports betting ends the predatory, illegal sports betting market and generates tax revenue that can have a positive impact.
“So you see tens of millions of dollars in some states a year going to support critical infrastructure, to support education to support athletics, youth athletics, or to support responsible gambling and problem gambling resources, do that too,” Clark said.
Matheson said sports betting has a different target audience than the lottery — young, college-educated men — and that could open up new demographics to gambling addiction. For help, call the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline at (800) 327-5050.
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