Clock Ticking on Massachusetts Sports Betting Compromise as Session Nears End

Clock Ticking on Massachusetts Sports Betting Compromise as Session Nears End
By Howard Gensler
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

There are only a few days left until we learn whether the state legislature can agree on a Massachusetts sports betting bill, and it’s still not clear if “yes” or “no” is the favorite — though you can get slightly better odds on “no.”

Over the past week, House Speaker Ron Mariano was pessimistic. Senate President Karen Spilka was optimistic.

On the floor is a compromise on the college sports betting issue which would allow wagering on collegians, just not on collegians playing for schools based in Massachusetts. Spilka is pushing for a compromise. 

“I really hope that the approach is not an all-or-nothing bill,” she said Monday, according to MassLive. She also said that legislators are free to lobby next session for provisions that may be left out of the bill this year.

Meanwhile, the three biggest players in Massachusetts gaming are lobbying the legislature with a letter. 

Leaders from Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino detailed how the efforts of the legislature and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission have led to over $4 billion in investment, 12,000 construction jobs, 5,000 casino jobs and $1 billion in tax revenue thanks to the advent of legalized gambling.

Those three commercial casinos in the Bay State also combined for about $93.1 million in revenue for June.

Sports Betting Less Than An Hour's Drive

But the times they are a changin’. 

The letter goes on to say that, “Today, 35 states have legalized sports betting, including the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and no resident of the Commonwealth is more than an hour’s drive from a state where legal sports betting is available. As a result, our competitors in these states are now offering a significant amenity and service we are prohibited from offering in Massachusetts and capturing the Commonwealth’s entertainment dollars once again.”

It also makes the points that:

  • Massachusetts sports bettors are also wagering in illegal sports betting
    markets.
     
  • Massachusetts is losing much-needed tax revenue.
     
  • The Massachusetts workforce is being negatively impacted.

The letter ends with a plea to legislators: “With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, we respectfully implore you to seize on the opportunity to level the playing field in this hyper-competitive industry.”

As lawmakers contemplate whether to legalize Massachusetts sports betting, it’s important to note that the history of gambling in Massachusetts began with a law against it.

Big Differences in the MA Sports Betting Bills

The House bill allows for wagering on major college sports, the Senate bill doesn’t. But that appears to be only one potential stumbling block. 

Additionally, the House bill sets a tax rate of 12.5% for in-person wagering and 15% for online wagering. The Senate bill’s numbers are 20% and 35%. That seems an easy compromise.

The Senate bill also prohibits credit card usage, caps the number of online operators at nine (a generous number if they’re prohibiting credit card use), seeks to place widespread limits on TV advertising (including a ban on ads during live sports events), and prohibits sportsbooks in sports arenas. 

The House bill has no issue with credit cards, no cap on the number of online sites or Massachusetts sportsbook apps, places few restrictions on advertising, and allows for sportsbooks at sports arenas. 

The Senate bill also directs 9% of revenues to addiction treatment programs. These issues seem a tougher compromise, though a credit card ban seems ridiculous in 2022.

The two chambers have until July 31 to reach a compromise. Someone’s going to be working on the weekend.

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Contributors

Howard Gensler
Journalist / Reporter

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the Massachusetts sports betting market for BetMassachusetts.com. Before his focus on U.S. sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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