Massachusetts Sports Betting Finds Momentum, All Eyes Turn to Massachusetts State Senate

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It looks like Massachusetts sports betting has a chance to be legalized soon. However, the path to legalization may not be an easy one.

All eyes are now on the Massachusetts Senate to see if sports betting in the state will be legalized. Last week, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee passed a bill to legalize sportsbooks in the state and forwarded it onto the full state Senate. Massachusetts has been one of the last major northeastern markets to hold out when it comes to legalizing sports betting.

Sports betting in Massachusetts has seen some obstacles, a major one being a lack of interest and enthusiasm. Sports betting proponents should be aware that even though there is positive momentum now, this does not mean the bill is a shoe in. This is because the bill will also have to pass the state House as well as the Senate.

The bill that is currently in the Massachusetts state Senate may not appeal to the state House. The bill does not legalize the practice of betting on college sports at this time. And according to statements House Speaker Ron Mariano made in the past, this is likely to be a dealbreaker for the chamber.

Mariano does not agree with the ban on betting on college sports because this could drop the annual state revenue for Massachusetts from sports betting from a potential $60 million to between $25 million and $35 million. Back in July 2021, the House passed its own sports betting bill that included college sports betting.

Other states have banned betting on in-state college sports to help protect their local college students. However, Oregon is the only state with legal sports betting that has completely banned all forms of college sports betting.

The bill from the Senate has a rate of taxation on sports betting revenue that is a good deal higher than the previous House bill. The Senate bill sets the rate of taxation for retail sports betting at 20 percent and mobile sports betting at 35 percent. Meanwhile, the House’s rate of taxation is set at 12.5 percent for retail sports betting and 15 percent for mobile sports betting.

The licensing structure for the two bills is also different. The Senate sports betting bill would allow for nine online sportsbooks, while the House bill would allow for 11 online sportsbooks. The House also allots three licenses through each of the three casino operators in the state.

Because of this structure, there would be fees for market-access, making it likely that casinos would probably support the House sports betting bill versus the one from the Senate.

There are already a lot of states that neighbor Massachusetts with legal sports betting, including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and newcomers Connecticut and New York. These states are benefitting from Massachusetts sports bettors who have to travel out of state to place their bets. Meanwhile, the state of Massachusetts is missing out on potential tax revenue to benefit the state. This is a major reason why many are hoping to get sports betting legalized in the Bay State.

There is time left during this year’s Massachusetts legislative session for the two chambers of the state government to negotiate the matter. The regular legislative session in Massachusetts will end on July 31, plus an informal session will run until January 2 of 2023. So, that means there is a decent amount of time for the two chambers to come to a consensus on a bill that meets both of their requirements.

The President of the Senate, Karen Spilka, had said earlier this year that legalizing sports betting in the state was not a major priority for the Senate at the time. However, she did indicate that she was happy to see the Senate Means and Ways Committee come to an agreement on their sports betting proposal. She also indicated that the state government would be discussing the bill as soon as this week.

In the Massachusetts Senate, the results of a poll demonstrated that sports betting legalization has support from the majority of the chamber. So, the interest and movement is likely a result of this support. 

Massachusetts sports betting also has the support of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who has been vocal about his hope to see the practice legalized and see the state benefit from the taxation. In addition, almost 100 small businesses in the state have also made their voices known that they want to see a Massachusetts sports betting bill passed that includes their interests as well.

State Senator Eric Lesser, who announced his candidacy for Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor earlier this year, has been vocal about his support for legalizing sports betting in the state. He had filed legislation a few months ago to legalize the practice. With such vocal supporters in key positions, the practice should have the support it needs to pass.

It will remain to be seen whether the legalization of Massachusetts sports betting will be prioritized as a result. The two chambers still have a few months to push the matter forward.

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

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