MA Sports Betting Conference Committee Still Working On Differences

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MA sports betting

Negotiations are ongoing to find a middle ground on the two MA sports betting bills before the end of session July 31.

That is according to Rep. Jerry Parisella, the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and one of three House members involved in the conference committee focused on legalizing Massachusetts sportsbooks.

“Only update is that we are still working out the differences and hopeful to get a bill to the floor before the end of the session,” Parisella told LSR Monday.

Chair Rodrigues: working hard to get bill to governor

Sen. Michael Rodrigues, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, told Parisella in early June that he wanted to get a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker quickly.

“We’ll work very hard to get this for the governor as soon and as quickly as possible, and know that the entirety of my team is here to help you and your team to achieve that goal,” Rodrigues said according to the Springfield Republican.

The irony of the statement, of course, is that the Senate’s lack of action is the biggest reason for the time crunch. The House’s willingness to legalize MA sports betting has been well-documented. The chamber passed its latest sports betting proposal last July by a 156-3 vote.

The Senate, meanwhile, did not pass its bill until April 29. That was just the first step in this process, though, as the Senate proposal differs from the House proposal in a few major areas.

Top MA sports betting issues

There are a few key sticking points the six-member conference committee must iron out in just a little over a month.

The biggest is whether Massachusetts will allow any betting on college sports. The Senate banned all collegiate betting in its sports betting bill and House Speaker Ron Mariano previously said that “probably would be” a dealbreaker.

Another issue that is miles apart is the proposed tax rate on sports betting revenue.

The House has an operator-friendly proposal of 15% for mobile and 12.5% for retail with promo deductions allowed. The Senate, meanwhile, calls for a 35% tax on mobile and 20% tax on retail with no promo deductions allowed.

Other smaller (but still crucial) issues

Both sides also do not agree on how many licenses there should be and who should be in charge of them. The Senate offers a minimum of nine licenses, while the House wants a minimum of 11, nine of which would run through the state’s three casinos.

There is also the Senate’s call for an advertising ban that could be challenging to implement. The ban is based on the state’s restrictions around marijuana ads and includes no betting ads during games.

American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller said such advertising restrictions would give another advantage to black-market operators in a letter released last month.