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Legal sports betting finally begins in Massachusetts

CBS Boston 2/1/2023 Staff

EVERETT - The first legal sports bets in Massachusetts were finally placed Tuesday.

The state's three casinos - Plainridge Park, Encore Boston Harbor, and MGM Springfield - are now accepting wagers after getting final approval from regulators Monday.

Encore Boston Harbor in Everett hosted 32 lucky guests to place the very first bets at 10 a.m., followed by a group of celebrity athletes and state lawmakers.

"It's exciting. It's also, then to be a Black woman, right before Black History Month, that's really exciting. So it's just good to be a part of it. I hope everybody had a great time. Even if I wasn't, I would have been rooting everyone else on too," said Claudia Gabriel, who placed one of the first bets.

"A little big of anxiety, which is weird. Because this is a historical event here at Encore, and for the state. So it's a little bit of anxiety, but I'll tell you it's phenomenal. It's a long time coming. I know people wanted this, and I'm glad it's finally here," added bettor Stephen Leslie.

Mark Lawhorne of Malden told WBZ-TV he is happy the money will go back to the state he lives in. "I've gone over to Foxwoods and other places in other states so to have it here in Massachusetts, it's a great opportunity not to lose the revenue," he said. 

Former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman placed an $11,000 bet on the Celtics to win the NBA Championship. "This is a cool day," Edelman said at Encore Boston Harbor. "A lot of people like to put money on the games, have a little skin in the game so it's great to be a part of it especially here at the Wynn."

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Ray Bourque placed the first bets at MGM Springfield.

You have to be 21 or older to place a bet in Massachusetts and it's cash only.

Wagers on Massachusetts college teams are limited to when they play in national tournaments like the NCAA basketball tourney.

"We're two weeks in front of the Super Bowl so we definitely expect there to be some volume," said Encore Boston Harbor President Jenny Holaday. 

That's what former Red Sox player Johnny Damon placed a bet on Tuesday. "Boston and sports fans are very smart and educated," he added. 

Taxes on sports betting are expected to bring in more than $60 million a year.

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Mobile sports betting is expected to begin in March.

Some experts say sports betting could lead to a moderate increase in gambling addiction. There will be resources at Encore to help anyone who needs it.

Gaming regulators have also set up a "self exclusion" rule so people who are worried about their habits can voluntarily ask the casinos to prevent them from placing sports wagers. 

Former Gov. Charlie Baker signed the sports betting legalization bill into law on August 10. Sports betting is already legal in more than 30 states, including Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New York.

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