Wicked Sad: Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Scrapped In Senate

Posted on July 30, 2020

It’ll be at least a few more months before sports betting in Massachusetts can be legalized after the Senate scrapped it from a jobs package.

The House sent an omnibus bill, H 4887, to the Senate that would have provided millions in funding for various projects and nonprofits. Legalized sports betting was included in the bill to help raise funds.

But the Senate decided not to approve any sports betting language for S 2842, the amendment to the House’s bill.

Sen. Michael Brady, who submitted a sports betting amendment, told LSR he feels strongly about legalizing sports betting but he and his colleagues want to make sure more entities are involved in the legislation. That includes the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the state lottery, he said.

But just because the discussion is over for now doesn’t mean Massachusetts sports betting is a dead topic this year.

Massachusetts sports betting will get another chance this year

While the formal session is scheduled to end Friday, the legislature technically holds an informal session through the rest of the year.

“I have been assured that we will be discussing this in the next several weeks,” Brady told LSR.

Until then, sports bettors in the state will have to continue traveling to New Hampshire or Rhode Island for their legal betting needs.

Brady’s district is about a half-hour away from Rhode Island. Many of his constituents travel to the state regularly to place bets, he said.

And it’ll become much easier for those wishing to bet in Rhode Island in about a month since the state finally ended in-person registration.

House sports betting legislation had flaws

It might be for the best that MA sports betting was removed from the jobs package.

The legislation wasn’t entirely perfect. First, it called for 1% of betting revenue from events in Massachusetts to be paid to those venues. It also would have allowed revenue-share agreements between leagues and sportsbook operators, a US first.

The terms for operators were a bit restrictive as well. Only the three casino operators and DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook could apply for licenses in the original draft. That was later bumped up to include two more licenses for operators that have sportsbooks in two US states for more than one year, language with some ambiguity.

Multiple amendments failed in both chambers

There were many attempts to tweak the sports betting legislation from both sides throughout the process.

Some of those amendments included raising the revenue tax from 15% to as high as 50%.

Others wanted fair play for racetracks so they could offer an online sportsbook as well. The House bill only allowed retail sports betting at tracks.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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