Gov. Charlie Baker is introducing his own sports betting bill today in the Massachusetts Legislature.
Although the bill has not been posted on the legislature’s website yet, Legal Sports Report is aware that the bill will not have any tethering necessary to a local casino or other gaming facilities. That would create an environment where anyone who wants to be licensed might have a shot to enter the market with a sports betting app.
Massachusetts sports betting, charting its path
This is not an approach that has been taken in legislation just about anywhere else in the country as states consider expanding into sports wagering. Generally, existing gaming operators — casinos, tracks, lotteries, etc. — are the funnel through which gaming expansions happen.
It appears that the approach is one favored by DraftKings, which is headquartered in Boston. DraftKings — and surely other online operators — are surely hoping that some states will license them directly rather than force them to partner with a land-based entity.
Tension between DraftKings, casinos?
Casinos will probably not be excited about being bypassed via an end-around in the Baker bill.
There are currently two casinos in the state — MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park. A third, Wynn Encore Boston Harbor, will open this year.
MGM Resorts and DraftKings were working together on lobbying regarding Washington, DC, sports betting recently. But this bill would not appear, on its face, to be one that MGM might support in Massachusetts.
Not just DraftKings
If Massachusetts is indeed open to all comers, will other operators flock to the state?
Well, DraftKings is going to have a pretty sizable advantage on its home turf, certainly. But sportsbook operators are not likely to roll over and play dead because of that lead.
The state is home to almost 7 million people — a bit smaller than New Jersey. The NJ sports betting market is already sizable in its early days.
All that leads us to believe there will be plenty of operators that would like to get in.
Will other states mimic this?
That is another interesting question, as sports betting bills proliferate around the country.
There are all sorts of approaches to sports betting, but this one is novel. If a truly open system for sportsbooks is the path to the most revenue, might other states look to this as a potential way to regulate sports betting?
The smart money says probably not. Casinos and other gaming facilities are politically influential in most states and will argue, likely successfully, that sports betting needs to happen through them.
Other Massachusetts bills in play
Baker’s bill comes after three bills dropped on Wednesday, and a fourth also appeared Thursday.
That bill appears to be one that is friendly to the leagues. It contains a sports betting “royalty” of a 0.25 percent of all wagers that is payable to the leagues on which wagering takes place. That’s been the ask of Major League Baseball, the NBA and the PGA Tour over the past year as they lobby for sports betting.
All three had lobbied alongside DraftKings and MGM in DC.