Massachusetts sports fans rushed to their cellphones on Friday to start placing bets as the state allowed online sports betting just days before the start of next week’s college basketball tournament. NCAA.
The start of online sports betting came just over a month after the state began allowing people to place bets in person at the state’s three casinos – Encore Boston Harbor in Boston, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville and MGM Springfield in Springfield.
Lawmakers estimate that sports betting could generate around $60 million in annual tax revenue and $70-80 million in initial licensing fees, which must be renewed every five years. The law provides for a 15% tax on in-person bets and 20% on mobile bets.
People must be 21 or older to bet.
Among those who started betting online on Friday was Taylor Foehl, a 31-year-old graduate student in Boston.
Just after online betting began at 10 a.m., he placed a $5 bet on Purdue to defeat Rutgers in their Big Ten men’s college basketball game. He said he chose Purdue because a friend of his joining him at the Cask ‘n Flagon sports bar across from Fenway Park was attending the school.
Foehl said he hadn’t played in the past, but had used the FanDuel app “to get a little action on the game” they were watching.
“It’s definitely a good time for that with college basketball reaching its playoffs,” he said. “I’m a big sports fan, especially Boston sports. I will watch pretty much every minute of every game when I can.
Foehl said sports betting information has crept into almost every part of the game.
“It’s hard to learn about sports and consume sports content without hearing about the gaming side,” he said.
Richard Bradshaw, a retiree from Worcester, said he was also looking forward to placing bets online.
He said being able to bet directly on college teams could make March Madness desk pools “a thing of the past,” but could lure him into teams and sports he might otherwise overlook.
“Watching a game, a game that doesn’t make sense, now it makes sense if you have $20 on it,” Bradshaw said. “Even golf. I watch golf if I bet on it.”
At DraftKings headquarters in Boston, workers prepare for the launch of online sports betting in the state.
The company was already taking bets in more than 20 states where sports betting is legal, but the prospect of serving fans of the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots and Boston Bruins is a extra fun, according to company president and co-founder Matt Kalish.
The company was also thrilled that the launch took place just before the start of the NCAA basketball tournaments, he said.
“The most common way people get into the product is usually for a big sporting event. It could be the Super Bowl or something coming up like March Madness,” he said. Massachusetts just in time for what should be an incredible tournament.”
Gambling addiction workers also prepared.
Marlene Warner, CEO of the nonprofit Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, warned that one demographic the group expects to see are young men. She said they are both the primary sports betting audience and some of the most at risk of gambling at dangerous levels.
Kalish said DraftKings monitors potential compulsive gambling behavior and gives those who use the app the ability to set limits on how much they can bet and how long they spend on the site.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the ban on sports betting was unconstitutional.
Former Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill legalizing sports betting. Baker, now NCAA president, argued that residents travel to Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut to bet.
Representatives of professional athletes are calling on Massachusetts officials to toughen regulations to protect players and their families from player threats.