House Bill No. 3977 was amended and then passed by Massachusetts representatives by a vote of 156-3. The legislation will now head to the state’s Senate for further study.
If the Senate approves H. 3977 without further amendments, it can be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. If amended, the two chambers will have to agree on the changes before the bill can collect that signature. The Senate also has its own sports betting-related legislation it could tackle instead.
Massachusetts has been considering whether to expand gambling here since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 ruled that the nearly nationwide prohibition on sports wagering was unconstitutional and gave states the ability to legalize the activity.
"Some may say that this is bringing sports betting to Massachusetts. The fact is that our Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports. They're either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it's legal, or they're also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet or they're also going to a bookie," Rep. Jerald Parisella, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development, said while outlining the bill for the House on Thursday. "But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts."
The House bill would put sports betting under the purview of the Gaming Commission, require that all bettors be at least 21 years old and physically present in Massachusetts, and implement numerous consumer safeguards to protect against problem gambling similar to those put in place for casinos when Massachusetts expanded gaming in 2011.