Massachusetts Sports Betting Looking Unlikely as Legislators Fail to Agree

  • Senate and House negotiators are currently “far apart” on betting legalization legislation
  • The final day of the current formal legislation session in Massachusetts is July 31
  • The main contentious issues are the permittance of betting on collegiate sports and tax
  • Governor Baker is in favor of legal betting and urged lawmakers to reach a compromise
People sitting round business table
Sports betting legalization in Massachusetts looks unlikely this legislative session due to the House and Senate disagreeing on certain issues. [Image:]

Time running out

Although Massachusetts lawmakers largely favor sports betting legalization, disagreement on the specific legislation is preventing progress on the issue.

far apart” on the sports wagering legislation

Commenting on Thursday, Hosue Speaker Ron Mariano said that negotiators in the Senate and House are currently “far apart” on the sports wagering legislation.

That said, there is hope that the legislature will agree on a final bill before the end of the current legislative session, with the final day slated for July 31. When pressed by local media as to how likely it is that progress will be made in time, Mariano said “realistically, I don’t know.”

A long process

Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Jerald Parisella are the main negotiators for the competing sports betting bills. The Senate passed its betting bill in April this year, while the House passed its own bill in the summer of 2021. This legislation then went to a six-person conference committee on May 19, with deliberations taking place in private.

Massachusetts has hugely successful professional sports teams and enthusiastic fans, with most of the major teams strongly in favor of legalizing sports betting.

One topic creating the most contention is betting on collegiate sports. The House has included college betting in its bill, but the Senate did not. Previously, Mariano estimated that annual tax revenue could drop from $60m to $25m without college sports betting. He has adamantly backed the inclusion for that reason. He believes leaving it out will play into the hands of the illegal betting market.

Tax and governor support

Other key differences between the bills relate to consumer protections and tax rates. The Senate’s bill proposes a 20% tax rate on retail betting revenue and 35% for online revenue. That compares to the 15% online betting revenue rate that the House proposes, as well as a 12.5% tax rate for retail revenue. There are also fewer restrictions on marketing and advertising in the House’s bill, as well as the allowance for bettors to use a credit card when placing wagers.

The governor is a supporter of legalization

If there is a compromise before the end of the legislative session, an approved bill will go to the desk of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. The governor is a supporter of legalization and has urged lawmakers to advance legislation. If Baker manages to sign a bill into law, it could see legal sports betting launch in the Commonwealth State at some stage in late 2022 or in the early months of 2023.

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