Massachusetts Sports Betting Deal Struck In Final Moments Of Session

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Massachusetts sports betting

Massachusetts will pass a legal sports betting bill this year.

State policymakers announced a compromise on the stalled MA sports betting bill past 5 a.m. Monday.

The bill includes a 20% tax rate for online sports betting and a 15% tax rate for retail. It also includes a ban on in-state college teams (except when they are playing in tournaments). Casinos and racetracks receive sports betting licenses, and there will also be seven online sports betting licenses. There will be no advertising ban, while credit card deposits for funding accounts will be prohibited.

Legislators knew the urgency of passing a bill while they had some momentum.

“I think if we don’t get a bill done, we have failed the citizens of the commonwealth,” Rep. David Muradian, a member of the six-person conference committee, told LSR Thursday afternoon. “I mean, it’s been abundantly clear — for sessions now — that they want it.”

How the MA sports betting deal happened

In recent days, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka had exchanged rhetoric that some in the industry viewed as a leverage play.

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker reiterated his hope that he would have a bill to sign. And letters were sent in to state policymakers from three MA casino executives, as well as the state’s largest business association, urging passage of the stalled sports betting bill.

What took so long in Massachusetts?

Divides between the House and Senate had centered on issues like college sports betting, the tax rate, number of operators, and a potential advertising ban. 

The House wanted college sports betting, while the Senate didn’t. New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Illinois, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington also have betting bans on in-stage college teams.  Initial reports indicate there will be no betting on in-state colleges.

The House had 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 had a 35% tax on mobile and 20% tax on retail, with no promo deductions allowed.

Advertising also in question for Massachusetts sports betting

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

The Senate bill allowed for nine online sports betting licenses, three to state-licensed casinos. The House bill, meanwhile, did not place a limit on online sports betting licenses. 

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.”