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Massachusetts Senate Passes Restrictive Sports Betting Plan

Massachusetts Senate Passes Restrictive Sports Betting Plan article feature image
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Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan Eovaldi

The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Thursday that would legalize online and retail sports betting statewide.

Senators spent the entire day debating over 50 amendments to H 3993, before eventually passing their chamber’s first sports-betting bill.

Along with numerous restrictions, including a ban on college betting and credit care use, the bill includes a 35% tax on online sportsbooks and 20% tax on in-person betting. It would bring in an estimated $35 million a year in tax revenue.

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Resistance to Come in the House

Despite several attempts to remove those restrictions, the House is now slated take up a bill that fundamentally contradicts its wishes for sports betting. The last time it touched the bill, tax rates were 15% and 12.5%.

House Speaker Ron Mariano is on record saying the inability to bet on college sports is a dealbreaker because it would likely cost the state millions in tax revenue. Notably, several states ban betting on their own colleges, but no legal state has yet banned betting on college sports altogether.

“Banning college betting will stop no one from betting on college sports. It will only drive up the black market, where restrictions are absent and the potential for an unsafe environment is much greater,” Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R) said.

He also said that would reduce annual revenue by about 25%.

The Senate bill calls for fewer licenses than the House’s as well. It would create nine online and retail licenses, with three reserved for casinos and the rest to be auctioned off. Each license would cost $5 million and would need to be renewed every five years.

No J.B. Smoove or Jamie Foxx

The bill also imposes an additional number of restrictions, including an advertising ban that would scale-back those J.B. Smoove and Jamie Foxx commercials.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, per Action Network reporting, has been preparing to implement sports betting, in anticipation of legalization. Under the bill, they’d have to put rules out by Jan. 1, 2023, which we saw Ohio do in its legislation in 2021.

The regulations would have to incorporate:

  • A ban on any marketing that could disrupt the viewer’s experience during live sports broadcasts.
  • A vague limit on promotional betting incentives, which could mean no free credits or signup bonuses.
  • A ban on all forms of advertising unless 85% of viewership is over the age of 21.

Biggest Slice of New England

Massachusetts is an important state for sports betting. It’s the home and headquarters of DraftKings and the most populous state in New England.

Its also home to a Penn National-operated casino, which is affiliated with the Boston-based Barstool Sports brand. Both companies have lobbied for legal sports betting for years and would likely operate apps in the state once it happens.

Both the Senate and House will likely go to a conference committee to attempt to sort out their differences, but it’s hard to see either playing ball at this point.

If they do, Gov. Charlie Barker (D) has indicated he’d sign whatever they get to him. They have until July 31, the last day of the legislative session, to agree on a deal.

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