- Massachusetts House of Representatives to vote on sports betting measure on Thursday
- Any approved bill would move to the state Senate for approval
- Timeline on Massachusetts’ sports betting industry opening remains unclear
Could Massachusetts be one of the next states to offer legal sports betting? If some state lawmakers get their way, it’s looking increasingly likely.
CBSN Boston reported Tuesday that the Massachusetts House of Representatives is prepared to vote Thursday on a measure that would legalize sports betting in the state. Ronald Mariano, the Speaker of the House, sent an updated schedule to fellow members that called for a formal debate session on Thursday at which lawmakers will discuss the pros and cons of legal sports betting. Lawmakers will be discussing a revised version of HB 506, a bill that was recently introduced by Rep. Dan Cahill.
The bill was redrafted in the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies over the weekend, with the updated version drawing positive reviews from lawmakers. The House Ways and Means Committee may issue further revisions before the debate in the House takes place later this week.
Could The Bill Pass?
Massachusetts is the latest in a series of states looking to legalize sports betting. Voters in over 30 states – plus Washington DC – have voted in favor of legalized sports betting in some capacity since the United States Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) just over three years ago. PASPA effectively served as a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada since it was enacted into law in 1992.
Sports betting already takes place in Massachusetts illegally, which is why lawmakers and industry insiders are interested in bringing the activity out from under the shadows. In a joint statement, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino said, “We appreciate the hard work by members of the legislature to bring legalized sports betting to the citizens of Massachusetts. As we learned last month, an overwhelming majority of voters support keeping the revenue generated by sports betting in the Commonwealth. We look forward to working with legislators on this important issue and getting it across the finish line as soon as possible.”
Both casinos have already said that they would be interested in offering sports betting if it were to ever become legalized. The two companies recently commissioned a poll of voters that found that 61 percent of Massachusetts’ citizens either strongly or somewhat support legalized sports betting.
Things could change depending on what happens with the Ways and Means Committee’s potential redraft, but the original iteration of the bill called for sports betting to be regulated by the state’s Gaming Commission. Casinos and other land-based facilities would be allowed to accept legal sports bets.
The state would also open itself to mobile sports betting in a more limited capacity. While nearby Maryland is considering hosting as many as 60 different online operators, the current bill under consideration in Massachusetts would allow for between one and three operators to establish themselves as mobile-only options. Any better looking to wager in the state will have to be at least 21 years old and physically located within state lines.
Speaker Mariano said earlier this year that he is strongly in favor of legalizing sports betting with a bill that “creates in-person and mobile gaming licenses that will bolster existing casinos and racing facilities.”
Reasonable Tax Rate
The current bill calls for in-person bets to be taxed by the state at a rate of 12.5 percent. Mobile wagers would be taxed at a 15 percent clip, with an additional tax of one percent placed on wagers placed on sporting events that physically take place in Massachusetts. That one percent tax would be distributed evenly between the venues that host the events as a “security and integrity” fee.
While bettors would be allowed to place bets on college sports, betting on prop bets or other bets tied to individual player performance among college athletes will not be allowed due to the potential for integrity conflicts. Lawmakers on both sides of the issue have debated whether or not to allow bets on college athletics at all. Some believe banning wagers on in-state schools is the better way to go.
One state Senator, Brendan Crighton, introduced his own bill that bars bookmakers from accepting wagers on local college teams. Senator Crighton said, “If we do not include college sports, we will not be able to bring folks into the regulated market and away from their current platforms.” Crighton’s bill outlaws betting on in-state schools “out of deference” to the schools that oppose sports betting.
The Massachusetts Senate was reluctant to discuss sports betting at its most recent session, but the group seems more ready to talk about the matter this time around. If the House votes in favor of legalization, the bill would then move to the Senate for approval. The Senate would then likely come back with a revised bill of their own before a joint committee of six members from each house would figure out the final details.
Governor Charlie Baker has already gone on the record in favor of legalized sports betting, as well.