Massachusetts House Rejects Senate Changes on Sports Betting

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The Massachusetts House rejected Tuesday Senate changes to its sports betting bill, setting the stage for a conference committee.

There was a little discussion on the House floor during a 16-minute informal session on Tuesday. But, as expected, the House voted not to concur with the amendments to H 3993.

Last month, the state’s upper chamber revived H 3993, which cleared the House last year. But the Senate version was in contrast with the one passed by the House earlier.

Both chambers are now slated for a conference committee where they will iron out the issues and reach a middle ground on tax rates, collegiate betting, and advertising restrictions.

House Rejected Senate’s Narrower Legislation

Last month, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would legalize sports betting, ban wagering on college sports, reduced licenses to nine, and increased the mobile betting tax rate from 15% to 35%.

The Senate proposal would generate an estimated $35 million in tax revenue a year and ban betting ads during sports TV broadcasts.

The House, which allowed wagering on both professional and college sports events, was expected to reject the narrower version of the sports betting proposed by the Senate.

More than 50 changes were offered ahead of the Senate vote, though many were rejected.

House Speaker Ron Mariano has been skeptical of the changes and even termed the college sports ban a dealbreaker as it could reduce tax revenue significantly.

Conference Committee Details

Both sides have to iron out a lot of issues, including tax rates, licenses, and college sports. The House appointed Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, David Muradian, and Jerald Parisella to the conference committee. Parisella co-chairs the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies – where the sports betting debate kicked off last year.

The Senate has yet to announce who will represent the upper chamber in the conference committee.

If the two sides reach common grounds and pass the same version of sports betting by July 31 – the final day of the 2022 legislative session – Gov. Charlie Baker is likely to sign it into law.

House Speaker Ron Mariano’s office told the media not to expect to hear much about where the sports betting negotiates are headed, adding it will not say on issues being negotiated.

Senate President Karen Spilka’s office also did not respond when reached out for comment.

Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Include College Betting?

The Senate version, which cleared last month, did not allow any wagering on college sports. Amendments seeking to change that have failed so far.

Sen. Patrick O’Connor pushed for college wagering in the Senate bill – with or without in-state teams. Though he later pulled his amendment, he expressed hope the conference committee would include college betting.

He said the conference committee offers a fair opportunity for both sides to take what they approved and blend them together to make the highest quality product that they can. He expressed hope they would walk away with a bill that takes a lot of the best practices that have been put in place in other states.

However, he said he was not sure where the two sides land on college betting, adding that he is hopeful that they would “land on a product that includes it.”

How Have We Reached Here?

Massachusetts lawmakers have been seeking to legalize sports betting since the Supreme Court annulled PASPA in 2018. However, they have yet to iron out their differences to produce a final piece of legislation.

Last July, the state’s House approved a sports betting bill by a 156-3 vote.

The difference between the two chambers resurfaced late last month when the upper House revived the MA sports betting bill, passing an entirely different version.

College betting is the biggest issue to settle in the conference committee.

If the House version becomes law, the Bay State could see almost $60 million in sports betting revenue.

However, without college sports wagering, the Senate version is likely to generate not more than $35 million, according to the most optimistic estimates.

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