Massachusetts Lawmakers Discuss Nearly 20 Sports Betting Bills

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Massachusetts lawmakers met Thursday to discuss nearly 20 different sports betting bills, in an apparent bid to forge them into one omnibus bill. Those dozen-plus bills range from regulation to determine how the proceed from sports betting would be used.

Multiple stakeholders – including casino operators, sportsbook operators, and sports teams/leagues – testified at the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Thursday afternoon.

Though nothing concrete has been achieved as of now, support for sports betting in Massachusetts has grown over time.

According to a new poll commissioned by Encore Boston Harbor and the Plainridge Park Casino Commission, a total of 61% of the 500 registered voters asked by David A. Paleologos Associates this month backed sports betting in Massachusetts. That number further swells to 72% if the revenue generated by the Commonwealth is reimbursed to support welfare or education programs, the Boston Herald reported Thursday.

Currently, there are 20 or more sports betting bills filed in the legislature. Those bills should be incorporated into one omnibus bill.

What Happened on Thursday?

The joint committee met to discuss 19 different bills backed by more than a dozen lawmakers. One Bill – H70 – was sponsored by Gov. Charlie Baker himself. He had included $35 million in sports betting revenue in a spending proposal submitted earlier this year. Governor’s bill calls for the overall legalization of sports betting.

During the hearing, state Sen. Brendon P. Crighton said (probably sarcastically) that sports betting in Massachusetts has been extremely successful, but in “an illegal and unregulated market.”

While citing a study that claimed the Bay State would generate $61.3 million annually, the Democrat lawmaker backed sports betting at casinos, at racetracks, and online.

Crighton’s bill – S257 – would enable the state to earn as much as $80 million in one-time fees from operators entering the Massachusetts market.

Another bill – H502 – from a state Rep. David Biele would bring mobile betting and college and professional sports betting.

Other bills would ban college betting based and/or playing in the Commonwealth.

Why Is Thursday Hearing Important?

Though nothing concrete happened, the Thursday hearing reiterates the state’s latest effort to bring sports betting. The day saw a step closer to a unified effort aimed at melting those 20 or so bills into a comprehensive piece of legislation that could clear legislative hurdles in both the chambers before landing at the governor’s table.

Despite the overwhelming majority of the testimony heard during committee meetings was in support of the industry, only time will tell what course Thursday’s efforts will take.

Though not all supporters agreed on the delicate details of their preferred bills, the hours-long meeting did not hear a direct opposition to sports betting in the state until the hearing was already five hours old.

Massachusetts Lags Behind Neighboring States

The Bay State lags behind four of the five neighboring states that have legalized sports betting or about to legalize the industry. Massachusetts also trails three New England states that have approved sports betting.

Both Rhode Island and New Hampshire have been pulling revenues from sports betting enthusiasts who frequently cross the Massachusetts borders to place legal bets.

Interestingly, sports betting in Massachusetts has bipartisan support, meaning one less problem. Both chambers are dominated by Democrats, while the Governor is a Republican.

When Can Legalized Sports Betting Come to Massachusetts?

There is no specific date. It all depends on the legislation before any launch date could be given. Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Karen Wells believes there’s a strong public interest to get sports betting launched in the Bay State and get revenues, currently draining to other states.

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said it would take not more than a few weeks for the company to get the tech up and running in the state. The Boston-based operator has a longstanding deal with the New England Patriots.

All the professional teams in Massachusetts support regulated sports betting.

The state’s legislative session runs through the end of the year, meaning the lawmakers have ample amount of time to iron out issues surrounding Massachusetts sports betting.

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