Bookies, look away.
Beginning Tuesday at Massachusetts’s three casinos, sports betting steps out from the shadows and into the state-approved legal realm. Here’s a guide to wagering on sports in Massachusetts:
Where are the sportsbooks in Massachusetts?
Three locations will be accepting in-person wagers for patrons 21 and older as of Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m.:
▪ Encore Boston Harbor, Everett
▪ Plainridge Park Casino, Plainville
▪ MGM Springfield, Springfield
When can you bet online in Massachusetts?
You’ll have to wait about a month. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is staggering the launches, with in-person betting first, then in March — ideally before the start of March Madness — you can tap away on your phone.
The MGC has approved 11 online operators so far, with Boston-based DraftKings and FanDuel topping a list that also includes BetMGM, WynnBet, Caesars Sportsbook, Barstool Sports Book, Fanatics, BallySports, PointsBet, Betway, and Betr.
How does sports betting work?
It’s different at every casino, but basically you can place a bet at an electronic kiosk or with a real, live person at a window.
Just whip out a credit card and I’m set?
No. Legislators and the MGC made it quite clear that nobody will be gambling on credit. It’s cash only at the casino. When mobile betting arrives, if you pass age and other verification tests, you can fund your account with electronic fund transfers and debit cards.
What kind of bets can I place?
There will be more than 20 types of wagering to choose from. The most common are these:
Point spread: You bet on the team you think will win, with a point spread (a number set to balance betting on both sides) factored in. The favored team must win by more than the point spread; the underdog must win outright or “cover” the point spread by losing by less than the point spread.
Money line: You bet using the odds, meaning if a team is the underdog and is listed at +140, a $10 bet results in a $14 payout. If a favorite is listed at -140, a $14 bet would win $10.
Over/under: This is a bet on the total number of points or goals scored in a game. For example, the Bruins-Maple Leafs game next Wednesday might have an over/under of 6, so if the teams combine for fewer than that, the under wins.
Parlay: Multiple bets are grouped together, and all must win. So if you think Jaylen Brown is going to score more than 25 points (which is a proposition bet), Marcus Smart will tally six or more assists, and the Celtics are going to win, and you happen to be right on all three, you win the parlay and enjoy a higher payout than if you won the three bets separately.
Futures: Bet on long shots like, say, the Red Sox winning the AL East or the Patriots winning the AFC East next season.
Lesser-known options have names like round robin, teasers and pleasers, in-game and in-play betting, propositions, and exchange wagering.
I’ve heard of maybe two of those.
You probably should stick to the familiar to start and do some research on the others. The casinos’ staff will be there to answer questions.
What can I bet on?
It’s a long list, and it includes all the major pro sports not only in North America but across the globe. A sampling: Korean baseball, African boxing, British darts, New Zealand netball, and Finnish pesapallo. College sports are OK, except for Massachusetts schools, and they have their own exception (see below).
Also allowed: bets on the Oscars and Emmys and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
What can’t you bet on?
You can’t bet on a Massachusetts college team unless it is playing in an NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournament. No bets will be allowed on injuries or penalties or replay reviews. High school and youth sports are out. The Winter and Summer Olympics will be discussed at a later date but are not on the approved list. Esports, jai alai, chess, and cornhole also are excluded, pending a closer examination of some integrity issues.
You’re serious, no cornhole?
The backlash is expected to be intense, but that’s MGC’s stance for now.
How much can I bet?
Each casino and eventually mobile operators will establish minimum and maximum wagers. The MGC doesn’t control that. There’s no maximum on payouts, other than one indirectly via a wagering cap.
What do I actually say to the teller or do at the kiosk?
It’s a business transaction. The teller can answer your questions, but ultimately they really want to know how you want to bet, so ideally know that before you get in line. If you hand them $20 and say you want to bet that on the Celtics to cover against the Bucks, you’ll get a betting slip in a matter of seconds.
The screen on the kiosk should be as easy to navigate as Netflix or BostonGlobe.com. Pick the sport, the game, the type of bet, feed the machine cash, and it will spit out a betting slip. Good luck.
I have a feeling this may be too much fun.
You’re not alone, and the MGC has insisted that casinos and online operators devote considerable resources to a responsible gaming plan that hopefully will stave off problem gambling before it leads to serious trouble, including addiction and financial ruin.
Bettors can voluntarily put themselves on a statewide self-exclusion list that prevents them from placing bets, and online bettors also will be able to suspend access to their accounts, as well as limit deposits, bets, and gambling time, if they believe they have a problem.
The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health maintains a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-426-1234 if you or someone you know needs help with a gambling problem.
Am I going to be deluged by ads?
There will be an uptick for sure, but the MGC spent a lot of time refining the messaging to ensure that ads and branding efforts will be targeted primarily to 21-and-overs, with an emphasis on responsible gaming reminders and language restraints against “free bets,” “risk-free,” and “cost-free” bets. For example, there will be a minimum proportion of space as well as a minimum font size on responsible gaming messages on billboards and signage. There will be no marketing on college campuses. Advertising will be allowed inside stadiums and arenas as long as the audience is believed to be no more than 25 percent under the age of 21.
There will be a close examination of promotional offers, with the MGC still to decide whether operators can deduct those costs from their reportable revenue.
Who can’t bet?
Professional and other athletes, coaches, referees, owners, and employees of teams cannot bet on the sport in which they’re involved.
This will apply more to mobile betting: Those who put themselves on a voluntary self-excluded list because of a gambling problem won’t be allowed to bet. A mobile bettor also can set limits on deposit amounts, bet amounts, and betting time.
Will there be any other places to bet?
Pending MGC approval, Caesars will open a sportsbook at Raynham Park that will be more than 30,000 square feet. Suffolk Downs has yet to announce plans for a sportsbook, but that’s expected eventually.
The governor signed this bill into law last August; what’s taken so long?
Considering the hundreds of rules and regulations for what is an almost entirely new industry, the MGC did its due diligence, and so far has met its deadlines. It held hearings with numerous operator applicants, some lasting more than a day with extensive requests for supplemental material. It looked at the applicants’ experience in the industry, the economic impact they’ll have on the state, their willingness to foster DEI in their workforce, their responsible gaming plans, and their technology.
The three casinos, along with 11 and counting online applicants, all cleared, with some conditions.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.