Session ends on July 31

Massachusetts senators, representatives to begin compromise sports betting bill negotiations on Thursday

Massachusetts Capitol House.
2022-06-08
Reading time 2:49 min

Massachusetts senators and representatives are set to negotiate a sports betting legalization. The conference committee tasked with hammering out a compromise bill will be meeting on Thursday, in an effort to reach an agreement before the legislative session expires on July 31.

The meeting, to be held virtually at 2 p.m., will feature Reps. Jerald Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian; and Sens. Michael Rodrigues, Eric Lesser and Patrick O’Connor. The reunion will follow the passage of sports betting bills by both branches over the last few months, although under vastly different approaches.

Among the key issues to be resolved by the conference committee, which was formed on May 19, is college sports betting, reports Mass Live. While the House bill allows this form of gaming, the Senate’s proposal does not. Additionally, the Senate bill features tighter restrictions on sports betting advertising, marketing and the use of credit cards for gambling.

In contrast, the House bill does not feature these rigid provisions. It also includes a vastly lower tax rate, both for in-person and online sports wagering. While the House bill taxes betting at physical locations at 12.5% and online at 15%, the Senate proposal subjects in-person gaming at 20% and mobile betting at 35%, an issue that has led to disagreement between both parties.


Mass. House Speaker Ronald Mariano

“The Senate bill is a paternalistic bill, it has all these anti-gaming protections so you don’t get hooked on gaming. But you leave those two things to the black market,” House Speaker Ronald Mariano said last month, referring to NCAA basketball tournament and college football bowl games betting. “It’s hard for me to figure out what the purpose of the Senate bill is.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Karen Spilka, who has been supportive of the general idea of legalizing sports betting, said she would have voted in favor of her chamber’s sports betting bill if it had gone to a roll call vote because of its “very strong” problem gambling protections, further reports the cited source.

Should all parties concerned reach an agreement and bring forward a sports betting bill for Gov. Charlie Baker to sign, odds are he will do so. Baker has long supported sports gaming legalization, and has stated it would make him “happy” to sign legislation to that end before he leaves office.

The Gov. actually renewed his interest in signing a sports betting bill last week, following Boston Celtics’ victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. Baker used the team’s win in a speech in favor of legalization, 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. 


Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

“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,” he said. “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.”

Last month, the American Gaming Association voiced its position on what should a sports betting legalization be like to the Massachusetts General Court, 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. 

This take is in line with the House’s more relaxed bill, which also supports collegiate sports betting, a provision that some lawmakers had previously called “a dealbreaker.” While it is still unsure if college sporting events wagering will stand following negotiations, Gov. Baker said he would support it depending on a proposal’s wording.

Four out of five neighboring states already allow sports gaming, and industry experts have projected that Massachusetts could make about $35 million in annual tax revenue from a legalized market. Last month, New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy also voiced his support for Massachusetts lawmakers seeking to legalize sports betting, saying “I’d do it” in a press conference.

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