After a countdown to 10 a.m. bets at the designated time could begin to be accepted in Massachusetts, $50 bill in hand in front of a bookmaker, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno placed bets on the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
He received his ticket from the clerk and told the media gathered beside him: “Big win for Springfield, big win for MGM, big win for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
And, with that, legalized sports betting began at the MGM Springfield casino and across the state on Tuesday. It was the first day that all three casinos were able to accept bets on in-person sporting events.
At the Springfield casino, a group of elected officials, dignitaries and casino employees gathered to mark the occasion, which also drew media attention from across New England.
Speakers at a ceremony held at the MGM sportsbook highlighted the benefits the new attraction could have for the casino and the city.
“We’re celebrating the ripple effect this social experience can create for our city’s restaurants, retail, gaming and economic engine,” said MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley.
Before placing his bet, Sarno had a similar message.
“And maybe you score, and you win some money, and then you decide whether here at the casino or at our other locations in downtown Springfield, you go out and have fun,” Sarno said. “But it’s another one of the amenities of this unique attraction right here in the city of Springfield, and it goes hand in hand.”
Massachusetts trails neighboring states Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Hampshire in allowing sports betting. The legislature took years to accept it. And it almost didn’t happen last year, but lawmakers reached an agreement in the middle of the night on Aug. 1, the last day of formal sessions, and former Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill into law.
From that point on, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is tasked with regulating the new industry, moved aggressively to get it going. In less than six months, it has drafted regulations, reviewed and approved licenses for casinos to accept wagers, and gone through testing software and systems used by all three of the state’s land-based sportsbooks.
Cathy Judd-Stein, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said that despite the short timeline, nothing was compromised in the process.
“We’ve done very well in prioritizing integrity, consumer protection and responsible gaming, and we’ve also prioritized diversity, fairness and inclusion and community engagement throughout our assessment,” Judd-Stein said. .
There were also casino patrons who came to check out the sportsbook at MGM Springfield, which has a 45-foot video wall, dozens of leather seats and a nearby bar for those who want to watch the games they bet on.
Howard Rosenblatt from Albany, NY, came with his sister. He said he doesn’t like to bet on his phone, like he might in New York, and that “it’s more fun in person” to bet on sports.
“Well, you can be in the building where you place the bet and we’re a bit of a casino player, so we have that as well,” he said.
For now, in Massachusetts, in addition to MGM Springfield, in-person gambling is accepted at Plainridge Park Casino in the southeastern part of the state and at Encore Boston Harbor.
Mobile and online betting is expected to begin in early March, just before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Gaming commission chairman Judd-Stein said the deadline stands as work continues to get nearly a dozen betting providers up and running.
When that happens, expect most of the action at sporting events to take place on phones or computers. But, MGM Springfield officials hope to get a head start with in-person gambling and to have a high-profile event like the Super Bowl sooner, some patrons agree with Rosenblatt and decide it’s “more fun in person.” .”
As for Sarno, he said he will donate his winnings to charity if the Eagles win the Super Bowl.