Lawmakers will have to hammer out a compromise bill if legal sports betting in Massachusetts is ever going to become a reality.
Legislation that would authorize retail and online sports betting in the commonwealth has been passed by both chambers of the state legislature, albeit in two different forms, which will now require members of the House of Representatives and Senate to find a middle ground.
After the House rejected the Senate’s proposed tweaks, and the latter insisted on them, members of a conference committee were appointed this week to strike such a deal. Both branches of the legislature will still need to approve the committee's report.
Figure it out
There are, however, some significant differences to resolve.
Two major disagreements involve the Senate’s proposals to ban betting on college sports and impose a whistle-to-whistle ban on sportsbook advertising during games. The Senate's version also proposes a tax rate of 20% on adjusted revenue from in-person wagering and 35% for online betting, whereas the House's proposal is for 12.5% and 15%, respectively.
If the two chambers can reach a compromise, Gov. Charlie Baker seems likely to sign the bill into law. Baker reportedly said Thursday that he still hopes to do so by the end of the legislative session to help Massachusetts compete with nearby states, such as Connecticut and New Hampshire, that already have legal sports betting.
“There are a lot of people who literally drive over the border just to be able to bet on things like the Super Bowl and March Madness and some of the other big events,” Baker said, according to MassLive.
Eyes on the prize
The end of the formal session for the Massachusetts legislature is on July 31, but the last day of the annual session entirely is Jan. 3, 2023.
Whatever happens will be watched closely by the bookmaking industry. For instance, WynnBET-owner Wynn Resorts is hoping the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts can give its digital business a shot in the arm.
Bill Miller, the president, and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association (AGA), wrote a letter to Massachusetts lawmakers this week offering some insight.
The AGA, whose members include casino and sportsbook operators, wants to ensure the finished product includes betting on college sports, limited restrictions on sportsbook advertising, and a "reasonable" tax rate.
“As 35 states and DC have already recognized, legal sports betting enhances consumer protections and helps promote transparency and game integrity, while also supporting job growth and generating tax revenue,” Miller wrote in a letter dated May 19. “However, to realize these benefits, it is important to avoid policy decisions that – even if well-intended – will ultimately undermine the ability of the regulated marketplace to compete against illegal operators.”