Analysis: House Won Most Key MA Sports Betting Negotiating Points

Written By Matthew Waters on August 1, 2022
MA sports betting

There will be legal MA sports betting after all despite negotiations going beyond the zero hour of midnight Monday.

H 5164, the compromise bill that passed in the early hours of Monday morning, looks a lot like what the House approved last July. Still, influence from the Senate bill introduced in April can be found in the bill in some key areas.

One piece of bad news for bettors: Massachusetts sportsbooks seem unlikely to launch immediately. Even fast state mobile launches tend to take months, and two studies in the sports betting legislation are not due until December 31

Both sides win with MA sports betting tax rate

The clearest example of compromise on the big issues is on taxes.

Operators will pay 15% on retail sports betting revenue and 20% on mobile revenue. That is up from the 12.5% retail and 15% mobile rates proposed by the House but far from the 20% retail and 35% mobile rates approved by the Senate.

The Senate, however, did win one of its key asking points. Operators cannot deduct promotional costs from taxable revenue, which was allowed in the House’s proposal.

Senate gave on total college betting ban

The most ludicrous standoff between the sides concerned betting on college sports. The Senate wanted to ban betting on all college sports, something only Oregon has done.

That never appeared to be an option for the House, and the issue finally came to its natural conclusion: operators cannot accept bets on games involving Massachusetts-based schools. Multiple states including big US sports betting jurisdictions like Illinois, New Jersey and New York have similar rules.

Betting on those in-state teams is not completely banned, though. Bettors can wager on if in-state schools will win postseason college tournaments, such as March Madness.

Advertising ban thrown out

The Senate’s attempt to implement a controversial and potentially unconstitutional ban on gambling ads did not make it to the final bill.

Instead, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will write the rules to prohibit certain advertising, marketing and branding activities:

  • Deceptive or ambiguous ads
  • Unsolicited pop-ups or texts to those on the self-exclusion list
  • Any advertising, marketing or branding the commission “deems unacceptable or disruptive” at sporting events
  • Ads targeting anyone under the legal betting age of 21
  • Billboards or any other public signage that breaks federal, state or local law

Casinos keep some MA sports betting licenses

There will be as many as seven standalone mobile licenses, along with six mobile sportsbooks and three retail books associated with the state’s three casinos. There could be more mobile licenses based on Category 2 licensees, which are reserved for horse tracks with live races or tracks that offer simulcast betting.

The three casinos had three skins each in the House’s bill and just one skin each in the Senate version. The compromise ensures mobile licenses for Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM and WynnBET, while giving each casino an opportunity to sell market access to its other skin.

In other words, at least 10 more mobile sportsbooks should launch in Massachusetts alongside those three brands.

No MA sports betting licenses for teams, revenue sharing OK

Professional sports teams and leagues did not win their battle to be licensed sportsbook operators.

That does not prevent them from seeking out a piece of Massachusetts sports betting revenue, though:

A sports governing body may enter into commercial agreements with a sports wagering operator or other entity in which such sports governing body may share in the amount wagered or revenues derived from sports wagering on sporting events of the sports governing body. A sports governing body shall not be required to obtain a license or any other approval from the commission to lawfully accept such amounts or revenues.

Multiple studies and research outlined in bill

The compromise bill includes two studies due by the end of the year.

The first concerns whether sports betting kiosks should be allowed at retail locations such as restaurants and bars. A second will look at the participation of minority, women and veteran-owned businesses getting involved in sports betting.

The Gaming Commission will also develop an annual research agenda to study the social and economic impact of sports betting.

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Written by
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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