Massachusetts Sports Betting Legislation on Deck

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks to press. Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

It has been almost a year since the Massachusetts legislature approved its sports betting statute but the details have yet to be ironed out despite an eager audience of Massachusetts voters who want to be able to make a legal wager in the Bay State.

Massachusetts Governor Supports Sports Betting

Governor Charlie Baker will not seek a third term in office but while he still occupies the state’s highest chair, he wants to make it clear that he supports a sports betting bill and believes the similarities between booking action and selling weed is striking.

“Without a legal way to do this [sports betting], it’s a little bit like the marijuana issue. You just leave the black market there, and you don’t sort of bring it out of the shadows and make it part of the regular crime. I think we should do that,” said Baker.

“There are a lot of people who literally just drive out of Massachusetts so that they can bet on sports,” Baker added. “It’s happening all over the country.”

Legalized Sports Betting Will Reduce Crime

Cannabis became legal for adults 21 and older to grow and possess in Massachusetts in December of 2016 and Baker believes that allowing sports betting, like legalizing marijuana, will remove much of the criminal element and will generate considerable tax revenues in the process.

The House vs. Senate

While the House gave swift approval to the sports betting bill, the Senate was not nearly as attentive.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee dragged its feet, and when they finally did approve it, there were substantial changes made to the bill, some of which have not sat well with members of the House.

The biggest bone of contention is whether or not to permit betting on college sports. The House sees no problem while the Senate disagrees.

One Big Issue

The issue is a big one because, without college football and basketball, revenues will suffer by approximately 50 percent or more and the state will see its residents doing exactly what they are currently doing – driving across the border to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York to make their wagers.

  • The Encore Boston Harbor
  • MGM Springfield
  • Plainridge Park

These are the three casinos located in Massachusetts and their executive boards have all beseeched the Senate to cede to the House’s demands on college sports betting.

Naturally, all three will have sportsbooks up and running the moment it goes live in the Bay State.

Massachusetts Less Dramatic Change

One less controversial change to the House’s bill was the tax increase supported by the Senate committee which changed the tax on sports betting revenue from 12.5 to 20 percent on in-person bets, and from 15 to 35 percent online.

A sports betting conference committee from both chambers will begin on June 9th and will have until July 31st to come to an agreement on the regulatory measures of the bill.

The looming specter of NFL football will serve as an enticement to get sports betting launched by September so that the state can benefit from the biggest betting season on the calendar.

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.