Massachusetts Sports Betting May Fall Victim to Legislative Differences This Year

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Massachusetts sports betting could fall victim this year to the legislative differences between the two chambers of the state. Recent comments by House Speaker Ron Mariano strengthen the assumptions that the two versions of sports betting legislation could remain irreconcilable.

Both the Massachusetts House and Senate have passed contesting sports betting versions. The biggest difference is that the Senate version omits collegiate sports betting.

More recent legislation came in April when the state’s upper chamber revived H 3993, which cleared the lower chamber last year. But the Senate legislation was completely different from what the House lawmakers passed last July by a 156-3 vote.

In mid-May, the House rejected Senate changes to the wagering bill, setting the stage for a conference committee as the lower chamber did not choose to concur with the amendments to H 3993.

The more recent comments by the House Speaker that he cannot figure out the “purpose” of the Senate version passed in late April suggest the chances for legal MA sports betting this year are not so bright.

The two sides much reach common grounds and pass the same version of the legislation by July 31 – the last day of the 2022 legislative session.

What Did House Speaker Recently Say?

House Speaker renewed his criticism last week of the Senate’s version that omits college sports betting, saying the Senate bill is too focused on controlling the industry without helping with addiction.

Speaking to the reporters on May 26, Mariano said that a total ban on collegiate betting would mean bettors would continue to use black-market bookies without options for the help they need.

He said, “There is no bookie that I know that will check you into a rehab to help you beat your gambling addiction”.

Citing the legalization of marijuana to strengthen his argument, Mariano said the residents steadily have migrated to the legal market since the psychoactive drug was legalized and regulated. The legislature can apply the same lessons learned to college sports wagering, Mariano said.

The House speaker said the Senate’s failure to include college betting will only fuel activity on the black market, besides resulting in fewer tax revenues from the industry.

Any compromised bill on sports betting ought to include college games if you really want to prevent problem gamblers from getting themselves into trouble, Mariano said.

Both Sides Have Yet to Broach MA Sports Betting Talks

Despite the irreconcilable differences – at least apparently – both sides have yet to come to a negotiating table. Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues told a local newspaper that the first committee meeting had not been scheduled as of May 27.

As of now, there is no update regarding when will the first conference committee meeting will take place.

Besides deciding on college sports betting, the two sides need to iron out differences surrounding tax rates and the number of wagering licenses. The upper chamber also includes some advertising restrictions.

Last year, the MA House Speaker said banning college betting would probably be a dealbreaker for him. Though he has not reiterated the same hardline position, he has clearly expressed that the bill would be much stronger with legal collegiate betting.

Massachusetts Residents Still Enjoying Betting Anyway…

Despite all the hue and cry in the state legislature for a legal industry, Massachusetts residents are still betting on their favorite sport legally or through illegal means.

Those looking for legal options drive to New Hampshire, which legalized sports betting in 2019. The others who don’t want to bother to cross the state just to place a few dollars for real money gambling do so through the local bookies or offshore sports betting sites.

Massachusetts gamblers accounted for 35% of all Boston Celtics playoff bets this year in New Hampshire, according to Mariano, who cited DraftKings. Nearly 28% of the March Madness betting in New Hampshire was thanks to the visitors from the Bay State.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who supports legal sports betting, has recently said he would back collegiate betting depending on the bill’s language.

The conference committee members from the House include Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, David Muradian, and Jerry Parisella. The MA Senate members include Sens. Eric Lesser, Patrick O’Connor, and Rodrigues.

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