Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Amendments Seek to Double Tax, Allow iLottery

  • Revised bill would allow online lottery ticket sales, increase initially tabled sports betting tax
  • House voted 156-3 on Monday in favor of adding the amendments to H.4879
  • If approved during third reading in the House, it will advance to Senate 
  • Lottery Commission would be able to adopt ticket sales promos such as prepaid gift cards
  • Amendment raises originally proposed 15% tax rate on GGR for sports wagering to 30%
George Washington statue in Boston, Massachusetts
The amendments to the Massachusetts bill propose doubling the sports betting revenue tax rate and allowing online lottery sales. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: Massachusetts’ state Senate unanimously passed the economic development bill at a Wednesday hearing but removed language regarding the legalization of sports betting.

Bill awaits further House, Senate approval

The Massachusetts legislature has made amendments to a bill submitted on July 24 that proposes legalizing sports betting in the state. The revised version includes provisions to make online lottery sales legal and to double the sports betting tax rate. 

time is running out

The House voted 156-3 on Monday in favor of adding these amendments to Bill H.4879, which is set for a third reading in the House of Representatives. If successful, the bill will go to the state Senate for consideration.

Time is running out as the current legislative session ends on Friday, unless there is a special extension agreed upon.

Online lottery sales, betting tax amendments

The lottery amendment would allow online lottery sales and give the Massachusetts Lottery Commission the ability to adopt promotional strategies to encourage people to buy tickets, which include offering prepaid gift cards. A study will also take place on the state’s lottery laws to see if any changes are needed. 

option to self-exclude from buying lottery tickets online

Customers will have the option to self-exclude from buying lottery tickets online, and every participant will be required to set a maximum deposit and spending limit. The administration and operational costs for operating the online lottery cannot be more than 15% of the revenue from ticket sales. Online fantasy sports can also be offered by the state lottery as per the latest amendments.

Additionally, the original bill put forward a 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue for sports betting. The amendment proposes a 30% rate, with some lawmakers originally pushing for a 50% tax rate. 

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will also be responsible for undertaking a report study regarding a casino that would be located in “Region C” in the south-east of the state. The project, which got the green light through the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, has experienced many delays over the years. The main concerns relate to competing casinos in nearby states like Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Push for legal sports betting

Bill H.4879 is an economic development package bill with a section on sports betting legalization. The Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means sponsored the bill with the aim of boosting the local economy. If sports betting becomes legal, it would see the creation of the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act, allowing retail, online, and mobile sports betting in the state.

The recent amendments could prove useful for Massachusetts going forward. In July, figures released showed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on lottery sales. For the 12 months ending June 30, revenue was $5.25bn, indicating a drop of 4.7% from the same period last year. Sales were particularly low in March, April, and May as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country.

The parties who came out in favor of legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts include the Boston Red Sox, NBA, Boston Celtics, MLB, PGA Tour, DraftKings, FanDuel, and MGM Springfield.