Massachusetts Has Plenty of Sports Betting Bills to Consider

Massachusetts Has Plenty of Sports Betting Bills to Consider
© USA Today

Massachusetts lawmakers seem to be taking the volume approach to sports betting legislation. Whether one of the bills emerges as a law remains to be seen.

A total of 14 proposed sports betting bills are on the legislative docket for discussion after Friday’s deadline of bill filing in Massachusetts. The state is looking to join Rhode Island and New Hampshire with legal sports wagering in New England.

COLUMN: Don't expect a quick resolution to Massachusetts sports betting

State Sen. Eric Lesser (D- First Hampden & Hampshire District) held a 27-minute Zoom press conference Monday afternoon to summarize his bill — SD 2365 — which was filed on Friday.

Lesser’s legislation establishes a framework for both in-person and mobile betting on professional sports at the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos, racetracks and for standalone mobile licenses. The legislation will also include some of the most comprehensive and strictest consumer protections in the country to protect both athletes and bettors, he said.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) would regulate and operate with three category licenses under his legislation.

Casinos and slot parlors can apply for a Category 1 license which would allow for an in-person sportsbook and partnerships with three branded mobile applications.

Plainridge Park, the only harness racing track in Massachusetts and a facility authorized to conduct simulcast wagering, can apply for a Category 2 license for an in-person sportsbook and one branded mobile application.

The MGC can also authorize six Category 3 licenses, which would allow sports wagering through a mobile application or other digital platforms.

Each category license would have a separate application, initial license and renewal fees. A 20% tax rate would be imposed on Category 1 and 2 licensees and a 25% tax on Category 3 licensees and daily fantasy sports operators.

Consumer Protection Funding

This bill also makes sure that funding is available for consumer protection initiatives by requiring that 5% of revenue be deposited into the public health trust fund to assist social service and public health programs dedicated to addressing problems associated with compulsive sports gambling.

While the bill permits betting on professional sports and allows live wagering, it does not permit betting on college, high school, Olympic or amateur sports.

“The governor’s budget that came out last month estimated $35 million for tax revenue, which did not include college sports as well,” Lesser said Monday. “The Gaming Commission did a white paper on this about a year ago and they estimated $8-10 million to as high as $60 million, so I think the $30-35 million range is probably right, but we have to see.

“It’s an important amount of money to capture, but it is certainly not something to balance the state budget on.”

Some other bills up for discussion among the 14 include HD 3606, by Orlando Ramos (D-9th Hampden); SD 2237 by Adam Gomez (D-Hampden); SD 177 by Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-3rd Essex); and HB 118 and HB 119, both similar bills sponsored by Rep. Bradford Hill (R-4th Essex).

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a supporter of sports betting, introduced HD 678 prior to his overall state budget proposal before the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting in late January.

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