Governor Renews Hope For Legal MA Sports Betting But Will It Happen?

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MA sports betting

With Sunday’s deadline fast approaching, it remains unclear whether there will be any legal MA sports betting at all this year.

Nearly three weeks ago, Boston Red Sox executive David Friedman said the franchise was interested in building a retail sportsbook near Fenway Park if allowed by the state’s legislature. 

Yet a divide remains between the House and Senate on issues like college betting and the Massachusetts sportsbook tax rate.

“I think if we don’t get a bill done, we have failed the citizens of the commonwealth,” said Rep. David Muradian, one of the conference committee members, told LSR Thursday. “I mean, it’s been abundantly clearly for now sessions that they want it. So now it’s up to us to do a bill.”

MA sports betting timeline

It is an open question as to whether a deal can be struck in conference committee before the end of regular session Sunday. Otherwise, it is back to the drawing board in 2023 on an issue already years deep in discussion.

Gov. Charlie Baker reiterated his desire Thursday to sign a bill that would regulate and legalize sports betting in the commonwealth.

“I certainly hope it makes it to the desk,” Baker said, according to Mass Live.

House, Senate divide requires compromise

The House wants college sports betting, while the Senate doesn’t.

The House has a more operator-friendly tax rate proposal of 15% for mobile and 12.5% for retail, with promo deductions allowed. On the other hand, the Senate has a 35% tax on mobile and 20% tax on retail, with no promo deductions allowed. 

Can the sides find some sort of compromise?

“I fear that a bill could get done, but only if the House caves on a lot of issues,” one industry source told LSR.

College ban remains sticky

Other states have sports betting bans on in-state college teams, so that’s a potential middle ground that could be found — even if it’s less than optimal.

The House and Senate also differ on the number of operators and a potential advertising ban.

Two weeks ago, Massachusetts pro teams sent a letter to lawmakers requesting they “reject the Senate’s proposed complete ban on advertising during game telecasts, as well as several other ad restrictions included in the Senate bill.”

Legal sports betting means revenue, protection for MA

As of now, Massachusetts bettors must head to surrounding states, unregulated offshore accounts or their local bookie to place wagers. As a result, the state loses out on revenue while being unable to adequately track problem gamblers who need help. 

“The Senate has been prioritizing revenue, but they realize that the priority really needs to be a framework that develops robust and sustainable revenue,” a second industry source told LSR. 

“And that means a reasonable tax rate, robust regulations and probity to keep out nefarious entities and keep standards high for the industry, and a full scope of offerings so platforms can pull players from the illegal market and other states to keep revenue and jobs in state. I think we’ll get there.”