Report: MA Sports Betting Bill Clears Senate Committee

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The Massachusetts Senate will have a chance to legalize MA sports betting but it might not be an easy process, according to a report.

On Friday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed a bill legalizing Massachusetts sportsbooks onto the full Senate, the State House News Service reported.

While it is positive the Senate is moving on sports betting after a lack of interest since last summer, this might not be a winning proposition with the House. The Senate bill does not allow betting on college sports, which House Speaker Ron Mariano said “probably would be” a dealbreaker last July.

Biggest differences in MA sports betting bills

A complete ban on college sports betting would drop annual state revenue to between $25 million and $35 million, Mariano said. That compares to House estimates of $60 million when the chamber overwhelmingly passed its sports betting bill in July 2021.

Oregon is the only state that bans all college betting.

The Senate bill also sets much higher taxes on sports betting revenue. The Senate would tax retail betting at 20% and mobile at 35%. The House’s rates are much lower at 12.5% for retail and 15% for mobile.

License structure could get casino backing

Another point is the disparity in license structure. The House bill creates at least 11 online sportsbooks, compared to nine in the Senate. Notably, the House runs three licenses each through the state’s three casino operators. That would lead to market-access fees, which should put casino support behind the House bill.

Luckily for Massachusetts residents tired of traveling to Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to place legal bets, there is still time for the chambers to negotiate. The regular session ends July 31, while an informal session runs through Jan. 2, 2023.

Senate President Spilka ‘pleased’

Senate President Karen Spilka, who said MA sports betting was not a major Senate priority to start 2022, said she was pleased about an agreement.

“I am pleased to see the committee has come to agreement on a strong proposal and I look forward to discussing it with my colleagues next week,” Spilka said Friday, according to the State House News Service.

The sudden movement makes sense after a poll found sports betting has majority support in the Senate. Earlier this year, about 90 small businesses echoed calls from Mariano and Gov. Charlie Baker to pass a sports betting bill that includes them.