As Senate and House try to unify bill versions

Massachusetts Gov. restates sports betting legalization support amid NBA Finals momentum with local team

Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts.
Reading time 1:47 min

After the Boston Celtics’ victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker used the team’s win in its speech in favor of legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts, lamenting the fact that sports fans had to cross over state lines to neighboring jurisdictions to place wagers on Game 1 of the NBA Finals. 

As reported by MassLive, the governor spoke to the press on Friday and said: “There are a lot of people who literally just drive out of Massachusetts so that they can bet on sports, and it’s happening all over the country. And without a legal way to do this, it’s a little bit like the marijuana issue. You just leave the black market there, and you don’t sort of bring it out of the shadows and make it part of the regular crime. I think we should do that." 

A bill authorizing sports betting in the state is currently lodged in a conference committee, as House and Senate committee members negotiate key differences in their legislation, including whether to allow collegiate sports wagering. 

The American Gaming Association voiced its concern to the Massachusetts General Court on this matter, in a letter that advised against excessive restrictions on sportsbook advertising, adopting an unreasonable tax rate for sportsbook operators, and banning bets on collegiate sporting events. 

Following these suggestions, House Speaker Ronald Mariano came in line with AGA’s criterion and criticized the Senate-passed bill that omits wagering on collegiate sports, a provision that some lawmakers had previously called “a dealbreaker” as both chambers must now work to bridge their differences in a conference meeting yet to be scheduled. 

The Senate passed its sports betting bill with new provisions focused on consumer protections intended to curb problem gambling. Mariano has described the legislation as “paternalistic, yet well-intentioned."

Massachusetts Senate’s bill also bans the use of credit cards to place sports bets, though debit cards and other digital payment options are allowed. Other safeguards for problem gambling include limits on television and online advertising, as well as the creation of a compulsive gambling program through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Mariano said it “makes no sense” not to deal with the two biggest collegiate sporting events. He also questioned how disallowing credit cards would benefit those dealing with problem gambling. Gov. Charlie Baker said he would support collegiate wagering depending on a proposal’s wording. 

Industry experts have projected that Massachusetts could make about $35 million in annual tax revenue from a legalized sports betting market. Last month, New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy also voiced his support for Massachusetts lawmakers seeking to legalize sports betting in their state, saying "I’d do it" in a press conference.

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