Massachusetts Governor Pushing Legislators on Sports Betting Bill
Gov. Charlie Baker has long been a proponent of Massachusetts sports betting legislation. But with lawmakers working to come up with a compromise bill to send to Baker before the end of the formal sessions next week, Baker is unsure it will get done in time.
“It’s very hard for me to draw a conclusion,” Baker said about the sports betting bill on GBH News’ Boston Public radio on Thursday. “You know, it’s hard to tell at the end of session sort what is or what isn’t going to get through the gate at the end. It’s certainly on the minds of people in the Legislature … People are still discussing it.”
Differences in the Bills
With the Senate and House sports betting bills featuring key major differences, the state put together a conference committee to come up with a compromise between the two bills.
Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, David Muradian and Jerald Parisella have been meeting with Sens. Eric Lesser, Patrick O’Connor and Michael Rodrigues during negotiations.
The two groups are attempting to work out the different tax rates, with the Senate bill taxing retail sports betting revenue at 20% and online revenues at 35%. By comparison, the House bill has lower tax rates with online at 15% and retail at 12%.
The Senate bill also has greater restrictions on sports betting ads and does not allow bettors to fund accounts with a credit card. There are no advertising restrictions under the House bill and it allows the use of a credit card to deposit.
But the main difference between the bills is about college sports betting. The Senate version does not allow betting on any college sports, meaning no wagering on college football or March Madness. However, under the House bill, it is allowed.
College Sports Betting Key
Speaking to reporters at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Speaker Ron Mariano was also not overly optimistic the compromised sports betting bill would get done in time.
“Realistically, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know. We’re far apart.”
The main point that still needs to be resolved is college sports wagering. Mariano acknowledges how popular college sports betting is and would like to see them included instead of allowing a black market that could take those bets and end up flourishing in the state.
“I think there’s an opportunity to include college sports, rather than let it be only handled by bookies,” he said. “I mean, I don’t understand if you’re going to do sports betting, why would you leave ou Final Four bowl games and the whole college football season? It doesn’t seem to be worth doing if you’re going to leave those.”
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