Massachusetts Senate Leaves Sports Betting Out of Budget

Massachusetts Senate Leaves Sports Betting Out of Budget
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At least for this year, sports betting in Massachusetts will remain on the bench.

The Massachusetts Senate wrapped up two days of back and forth this week and passed a $46 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but didn’t include sports betting.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts had tried to get sports wagering restarted this fall, but in the end it will likely have to wait until next year.

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr-R (1st, Essex/Middlesex District) introduced a sports betting amendment, but it did not receive a roll call vote this week, according to a story by the State House News Service. The amendment would have allowed casinos, racetracks and online betting platforms to apply for sports betting licenses and would have designated revenue from startup application fees to a new economic recovery fund, the story said.

OP-ED: Massachusetts must take gaming digital or lag behind

“If we don’t do it in this bill, we should absolutely get to work before we end this year to make sure this is done,” said state Sen. Marc Pacheco-D (1st, Plymouth/Bristol District), according to the State House News Service. “I am very concerned that we are going to be missing the boat on this.”

Estimated annual revenue from sports betting in Massachusetts have ranged anywhere from $20 million to $35 million, according to published reports. Gaming revenues at two casinos and a slots facility in October was $68.7 million, compared to $70.5 million in September. Encore Boston Harbor had $41.1 million in Gross Gaming Revenues (slots and table games combined) in October and MGM Springfield had $17.5 million. Plainridge Park, which has slots only, reported $10.1 million.

The Senate passed the economic bill in a unanimous vote in July, but did not approve amendments that introduced sports betting into the bill. The House passed its version of the economic development bill with legislation legalizing sports betting included, but it was stripped from the Senate bill.

The bill would have allowed seven online sports betting licensees for the casinos, Boston-based DraftKings, FanDuel and two others.

Next Session for Sports Betting?

After Wednesday’s session, Senate President Karen Spilka-D (2nd, Middlesex/Norfolk District) was non-committal when asked if there was a chance the Senate would take sports betting back up before the session ends in early January 2021, according to State House News Service.

Massachusetts residents can wager on sports, but they will have to do it across state lines as New Hampshire and Rhode Island have legal mobile sports betting. Both states have allowed Massachusetts residents to sign up and wager as long as they are within that state’s jurisdiction.

Gov. Charlie Baker is seen as a supporter of sports betting, having pushed his own bills to legalize the practice.

Baker said over the summer sports betting could help generate revenue for the state as it deals with coronavirus pandemic budget deficits.

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