Massachusetts House to Consider Legal Sports Betting This Thursday

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Massachusetts House lawmakers will take up the legal sports betting issue for the first time this year on Thursday, July 22, according to a report from MassLive.

It comes after the House’s Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on Monday released after more than two years of deliberations a new Massachusetts sports betting bill – H 3974 – which incorporates 12 previous drafts of sports betting legislation.

The new bill has already been passed on the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Legalized sports betting in the Bay State could generate $70 million in state tax revenue, according to a state representative.

Last month, the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies discussed as many as 19 gaming bills sponsored by over a dozen legislators. In February, Gov. Charlie Baker had included $35 million in sports betting revenue in his spending proposal, which House members took out of the final budget.

Four of the five states bordering Massachusetts have legalized sports betting.

Joint Committee Finally Stirs to Action

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies has been discussing legal sports betting since 2019. More than a dozen bills – including one from the governor – were filed this session, but nothing came out.

The joint committee was polled on whether or not to move S 269 and H 506 – one each in the state’s Senate and House – out of committee.

H 506 – now renamed H 3974, and incorporates nearly a dozen other bills – would legalize statewide mobile betting on college and professional sports. It would also name the Massachusetts Gaming Commission as the regulator.

Massachusetts retail sports betting would be available at existing casinos, slot parlors, horse racetracks, and OTBs.

H 3974 Highlights

The highlights of the proposed bill include:

  • Three types of sportsbook licenses: one for casinos, one for horse racetracks, and one for mobile operators.
  • Casinos will have three skins; racetrack will have one.
  • The tax rate for retail betting will be 12.5%, and 15% for mobile bets.
  • The new bill allows pre-game/event collegiate sports wagering, including eight in-state schools. No player props or live in-play wagering on collegiate sports will be allowed.
  • The application fee is $100,000. The license fee would be $5 million for five years and will be renewable for five years for the same amount.
  • It implements an official league data mandate and includes eSports wagering.

Thursday’s Hearing

The 38-page legislative measure is currently in conference with the committee and House Ways and Means Committee members will reportedly meet as early as Thursday. But as of now, there has been no formal announcement.

A state Rep. Orlando Ramos recently introduced a sports betting bill HB 531, a measure that would encourage small business participation in the Bay State. It’s the second such initiative for minority-owned businesses in the nation after Maryland became the first state to legalize sports betting, encouraging minority-owned and female-owned businesses in its new law.

Massachusetts Legislature meets in two-year blocks starting each odd year. This state’s legislature will remain in session until Dec. 31.

How Have We Reached Here?

House lawmakers pushed for a sports betting bill last year, incorporating it into a significant economic development bill. The state’s Senate rejected efforts in July, saying the economic development bill was not the appropriate “vehicle” for legalization.

Both the chambers deliberated for months in closed-door negotiations before approving a jobs bill that did not include sports betting when it was made public early January during the final hours of the legislative session.

More than a dozen sports betting bills were filed recently in the legislative session before the economic development committee.

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