Although it initially appeared that sports betting in Massachusetts would be legalized soon, the industry will face further delay in Massachusetts following rejection from the Senate.
As August was approaching, it appeared that the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts was near realization, making it the 19th state to legalize the industry.
Legislators had placed sports betting in an economic bill aimed at responding to the economic crisis that Massachusetts is in due to the Covid-19. After the bill was approved by the House, sports bettors were very enthusiastic.
Unfortunately, the gloom returned when the Senate rejected multiple amendments in this bill, including all sections pertaining to sports betting.
The opposition reasoned that the legalization of gaming was not in the best interest of Massachusetts in dealing with a crisis response to the economic downturn. At least, not for now.
The Bill Comfortably Passed in the House
Bill H4887 that included sports betting, passed in the House with a vote of 156-3 in favor of the legislation. The goal, included in the bill, was to fast track the betting industry to allow the casinos and racetracks the ability to provide sports betting as soon as possible in Massachusetts.
Besides the general inclusion, the bill had specific details regarding the industry, including sports betting licenses. Lawmakers did not want these licenses to be tied to a physical location.
Originally, DraftKings and FanDuel were the only operators that qualified for the “untethered licenses”. Now, more licenses will be allowed following the amendment in bill H4887.
The amendment will enable any operator, with a sportsbook in at least two states, for at least one year to apply for a license.
In total, Massachusetts was planning to allow up to seven online sports betting licenses. Five were believed to have already taken.
The license fee was set at $250,000 for a five-year period. Plus, there was an option for a temporary license at $50,000. Besides, the tax rate had been set on par with many other states i.e., 15% of the betting revenue.
Which Operators Were Rumored to Grab the Sports Betting Licenses?
As of now, it is not certain as to which companies, other than FanDuel and DraftKings, wee going to get the licenses. However, analysts claimed to have some insight regarding the rest of the “players.”
It was general speculation that Massachusetts’s three casino operators would be given online licenses. Both MGM Resorts and Penn National have their online brands in other states under the names of BetMGM and Barstool Sportsbook. Obviously, it would be a matter of convenience in bringing these into the state.
Then there is Wynn Resorts that uses Stadium Technology for sports betting out of its Las Vegas casinos. They have collaborations with BetBull in Indiana and Colorado, along with Scientific Games in New Jersey.
Most experts thought that the final two sports betting licenses would be granted to William Hill US and BetRivers.
These are all influential gaming operators pushing for the legalization of sports betting Massachusetts.
Why Senate Declined Sports Betting?
In late July, the Senate unanimously passed a $455 million economic crisis bill aimed at providing assistance to a declining economy. Unluckily, not all amendments were approved. The majority of amendments in the Senate were rejected were related to sports betting.
The major reason for the opposition in the Senate to vote against the industry was the timing. Some leaders, including Senator Michael Rodrigues, believed that this bill was not the appropriate vehicle for sports betting.
The Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Senator Eric Lesser, Longmeadow-D, sought to clarify the following words:
“This bill on this specific day, which we pointed out earlier in the session when debate commenced, is about an emergency response economically to the pandemic depression that we find ourselves in.”
Indeed, not everyone agreed with these lawmakers. However, some believed the language in the amendment might have been left in as they cited that legalized sports betting could boost the state economy.
So, What’s Next?
Now that the House and Senate have passed two different variants of an economic crisis bill, they will have to reconcile these differences before sending it to the Governor for final approval.
Some of the most vocal supporters in the House are expected to continue to further their agenda for sports betting to incorporate in the economic development bill. Yet, the fight looks less meaningful with each passing day.
It is likely that sports betting won’t be live in Massachusetts until 2021. Although the delay appears unpleasant, it is a step in the right direction, particularly if we recall most state leaders in 2019 were against legalizing the industry altogether.
As many Senators pointed out, opposing sports betting in this bill was not because of not desiring a legalized industry in the near future.
Most likely, sports betting will be addressed in a separate bill that would lay out the legislation encompassing the ultimate fate of the industry in Massachusetts.