Sports betting began in Massachusetts casinos, Ty Lowe was betting heavily on the Celtics

Sport News

Many of the early bets in Massachusetts’ fledgling sports betting industry were on the upcoming Super Bowl, as well as the Bruins’ and Celtics’ title chances.

Johnny Damon was among the athletes in attendance at the Encore Boston Harbor Casino on Tuesday as sports betting became officially legal in Massachusetts. John Tlumaki/Globe Staff

EVERETT — An unusually large casino crowd for a Tuesday morning packed the floor at Encore Harbor Boston as the WynnBet Sportsbook opened amid the official legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts.

Thirty local bettors who won a random competition were the first group to place sports bets at the newly installed bank of kiosks. After the Massachusetts Gaming Commission revealed in October that it wanted in-person betting to go online in time for the Super Bowl, many of the first bets were tied to the NFL’s annual event.

“I’m betting on the Super Bowl,” Woburn resident Steve Leslie said. “I’m betting Philly to win, giving up a 2.5 spread, but that’s OK. I think they’ll cover it.”

Leslie was one of a randomly drawn group that placed the first casino sports bets.

“I bet. I’m not a crazy gambler, but I take it easy,” he explained. “I think having this type of platform is great.”

Several famous former Boston athletes attended the festivities, including Johnny Damon, Cedric Maxwell, Sean Thornton, Matt Light, Angela Ruggiero and Ty Lo.

After several of their bets were announced — mostly smaller bets on the Super Bowl and local teams — Law made a statement.

“You’re all cheap,” he joked. “I’ll give $1,000 to the Celtics to win it all.”

Law also added that he was betting on the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

For now, personal options in state-owned casinos remain the only way to bet on sports. That will change in March when mobile betting is implemented in time for the NCAA college basketball tournaments.

Encore Boston Harbor’s new WynnBet sportsbook.

As Encore celebrates the launch of its sportsbook, is there a concern about bettors disappearing once they don’t have to physically come to a casino to place a bet?

“I think if you look at most markets, mobile gets about 80 percent of the revenue,” said Encore President Jenny Holladay. “It makes perfect sense just for convenience.

“However, what I will say, especially about this retail operation, is that Boston is an incredibly enthusiastic and passionate sports town, and there’s nothing more fun and exciting if you’re a sports fan than going in and watching the teams Boston with all your friends,” she added. “So I think the community feel of the in-person experience will always have appeal and value in this market.”

Lesslie echoed Holaday’s sentiment, noting that he can see value in both in-person and mobile experiences.

“I think for people who can’t get off and don’t want to drive, the cellphone will be great for them,” he said. “I think the personal piece, I think that would definitely benefit me because I’m 20 minutes down the street and I would spend a day here.”

“I’ll probably do a little bit of both,” said another early bettor, Kelly Gillis of Wilmington. “I don’t really bet too much on sports, but maybe I’ll do a few games here and there, like the Bruins or the Celtics.”

The spread of betting represents one of the latest stages in a long process of legalization.

For decades, sports betting — specifically betting on the outcome of an individual game — was illegal in the United States except Nevada. Then in 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in a 6-3 decision, clearing the way for state-level legalization.

Massachusetts later than several of its neighboring states allowed sports betting. The eventual bill to allow sports betting in the state was a last-second deal-making process at the end of the 2022 legislative session.

Among those attending Tuesday’s Encore was Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano, who helped broker the agreement.

“I thought we’d be here,” Mariano said of legalization. “I knew it would take a little longer than we would have liked, but I knew it was a worthwhile endeavor and that we could get the majority of people to support it.”

“It’s an ongoing process,” Mariano continued, noting that the bill’s language took several years to craft. “There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. And, of course, Massachusetts has its own way of doing things.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *