Can Massachusetts’s Lawmakers Come Together on Sports Betting Bill?

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Recent developments for legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts are extremely promising. Yet, there is one big “if” surrounding a positive outcome.

On April 28, the state Senate cast a favorable vote to pass its version of a sports betting bill. The state’s House of Representatives passed its own bill in favor of legalizing sports betting last year. For the process to keep moving forward, each chamber of the government now needs to reconcile any differences that still exist.

Michael Rodrigues is the chairman of the state’s Senate Ways and Means Committee. He released to following comments on the current situation:

I am proud to say that this bill is a product of a thoughtful, deliberative process that takes into account the lessons learned in other states who rushed into legalization. (...) Some may wish we acted sooner but I am convinced that the time we took resulted in a final product that will be a national model for responsible sports wagering.

Michael Rodigues, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman

The next step in the process involves a six-member conference committee made up of both Senate and House lawmakers. Their goal will be to draft a combined version of both bills. The clock is ticking to come to an acceptable compromise with a deadline of July 31 in place.

If this committee is successful in forming one piece of legislation, the final stamp of approval would come from Governor Charlie Baker with his signature.

One of the sticking points between the state House and Senate is legal betting on college sports. The House included betting on college sports in its bill. The Senate’s bill would still prohibit betting on athletic events at the collegiate level.

There are a few other important differences that need to be ironed out, including the tax rate on sportsbook revenue.

The House called for a 12.5% tax rate on retail sports betting in HB 3993. This rate would jump to 15% for online sports betting revenue.

Senate Bill 2844 calls for a 20% tax rate on retail revenue. This rate would increase to 35% on revenue generated by mobile sportsbook operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

HB 3977 lets in-state bettors use credit cards to fund a sportsbook account. SB 2844 does not allow the use of credit for legal sports betting.

Gov. Baker has been a long-time proponent of legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts. He made note of legal betting in neighboring states such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and New York.

He added the following comment on the current situation:

There are always differences on complicated pieces of legislation between the House and Senate. My hope would be that they would both work to get something to our desk that we can sign by the end of the session.

Governor Charlie Baker (D) - MA

It has been estimated that the Bay State could take in as much as $35 million in additional tax revenue if sports betting is legalized. Fees as high as $5 million for retail sportsbooks licenses in land-based casinos would add to this total.

Written by Dave Schwab, our US sports betting industry expert.

The featured image for this post was sourced on Getty Images.