Massachusetts Sports Betting 2022 Legalization in Peril as July 31 Legislative Session Deadline Approaches

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The end of the legislative session for the state of Massachusetts is quickly approaching as the July 31 deadline nears. And, unfortunately this puts the pressure on Massachusetts lawmakers if sports betting in the state is going to be legalized this year. Things are not necessarily looking good, as there are currently a few obstacles in the way of legal Massachusetts sports betting.

At this point, there are two Massachusetts sports betting bills that are being discussed. The two chambers of the state government are working on finding a compromise between the two bills to move forward.

The co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, state Representative Jerry Parisella, stated that the regulators are currently working on finding that middle ground. He also indicated he's hopeful that the differences will be worked out. He is one of three members of the Massachusetts state House that is involved in a conference committee that is working to legalize sports betting in the state. 

At the beginning of June, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, state Senator Michael Rodrigues, told Representative Parisella that it was his wish to get a Massachusetts sports betting bill to the desk of MA Governor Charlie Baker speedily. Senator Rodrigues reportedly told the Representative that his team was there to help and put in the hard work required.

However, it has been the Massachusetts state Senate that has been causing the hold up when it comes to legalizing sports betting in the state. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts state House has made it clear that it is more than willing to legalize sports betting in MA.

In the summer of 2021, the Massachusetts state House passed a sports betting proposal, the House’s most recent, by a vote of 156 to 3. On the other side of things, the Massachusetts state Senate passed its own MA sports betting bill quite recently, on April 29. And, causing even more issues, the Massachusetts state Senate’s bill has a few major differences from that of the House.

A major discussion when it comes to sports betting in the state has been whether to allow for betting on college sports. The sports betting bill from the state Senate included a ban on all college sports betting in the state. Meanwhile, Ron Mariano, the House Speaker, had already indicated that this would most likely be a dealbreaker for him because he feels this would leave money on the table and allow illegal sports betting to keep occurring in the state or keep driving those looking to bet on college sports to neighboring states that allow it.

Another major point of contention between the two bills is the rate of taxation that would be imposed on revenue from sports betting. The House bill appeals more to sports betting operators, with a 15% proposed rate of taxation for mobile and a 12.5% rate for retail. It also allows for promo deductions. The Senate bill is decidedly less operator friendly, with a tax rate of 35% for mobile and 20% for retail, and it does not allow for any promo deductions.

There are also issues between the two bills surrounding how many licenses the state should offer. The Senate is looking to offer nine licenses at minimum, while the House is looking to offer 11 licenses at minimum. The House would want nine of the eleven (minimum) licenses to be operated through the three casinos in Massachusetts. 

Furthermore, neither side agrees on who should be in charge of issuing and regulating the sports betting licenses. The state Senate also wants a ban on sports betting operator advertising, which could be tricky to enact. The ban would not even allow for sports betting ads during sporting events. Massachusetts already has restrictions for cannabis ads in the state, which set the precedent.

The CEO of the American Gaming Associations, Bill Miller, released a letter last month indicating his belief that these kinds of restrictions on advertising would be a boon to illegally operating black-market sportsbooks. It does seem it would create a disadvantage for sportsbook operators looking to build their fanbases and get the word out about their products.

Will the lawmakers in Massachusetts be able to come to an agreement before the July 31 deadline? Check back soon for more news on the status of Massachusetts sports betting as it happens.

Written by Allie Nelson, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert.

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