It’s been more than a month since Massachusetts House and Senate committee members first met looking to reconcile differences in their Massachusetts sports betting bills.
Since the meeting was held behind closed doors, it’s difficult to know if anything was accomplished. According to each body, however, they’re still working.
The major hold-up at the time of the June meeting seems to have been wagering on college sports. The Senate bill did not want colleges included. The House bill did. But there were also disagreements over credit card usage and tax rates.
Last week, Senate President Karen Spilka said her chamber would take a roll call vote on its bill, according to MassLive. The last vote the Senate took on the bill was a voice vote in April. Spilka has said she would have voted in favor of the Senate bill.
Getting the senators on the record would be helpful, but won’t necessarily work to square the two bills and pass legislation.
Last week during a gaming conference, Rep. Jerry Parisella expressed hope the House and Senate would be able to agree on a bill before the end of the legislative session and get something to Gov. Charlie Baker to sign.
Governor Supports Sports Betting Bill
Baker supports a bill, as does the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. All are concerned with the amount of sports betting tax money Massachusetts may be losing to other states.
Michael Rodrigues and fellow senators Eric Lesser and Patrick O’Connor, and House members Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian, are the lucky legislators tasked with coming up with a sports betting compromise that will satisfy both chambers.
“We probably hear more about sports betting from our constituents than just about anything else, so I’m looking forward to working with you, your Senate colleagues and my House colleagues to come to a compromise,” Parisella said to Rodrigues before their June 9 meeting video feed shut down and the meeting continued in private.
The three commercial casinos in the Bay State — MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville — combined for about $93.1 million in revenue for June.
Big Differences in the Bills
The House bill allows for wagering on major college sports, the Senate bill doesn’t, and that appears to be a major stumbling block.
House Speaker Ron Mariano has previously said a sports betting bill which doesn’t allow for wagering on the NCAA Basketball Tournament makes no sense and called the Senate bill “paternalistic.”
A compromise that has been reached in a few other states is that wagering on college sports is allowed, but not on teams in that state.
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%.
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 sportsbooks, places few restrictions on advertising, and allows for sportsbooks at sports arenas. The Senate bill also directs 9% of revenues to addiction treatment programs.
The two chambers have until July 31 to reach a compromise.