Massachusetts Lawmakers Unlikely to Reach Sports Betting Deal

Massachusetts Lawmakers Unlikely to Reach Sports Betting Deal article feature image

Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Massachusetts State House.

A group of Massachusetts lawmakers are still negotiating sports betting with just two days left to pass a bill, but "a compromise feels unlikely at this point," a legislative staffer told Action Network.

A conference committee comprised of three senators and house representatives has been working for over a month to find middle ground between bills passed earlier this year by both chambers. The legislature has until July 31 to send a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker, who's been supportive of the industry, or they'll have to take it up again next year.

While negotiators have been tight-lipped on details, recent comments from their respective leaders offer a window into what's taking so long.

College Betting Hardball

Senate President Karen Spilka in an interview with NPR Boston earlier this week said she's still hopeful each chamber can agree on a universal bill before the end of session, but accused her counterparts of playing hardball.

"The speaker has said… if college sports betting isn’t in it, there’s no point in doing it," Spilka said. "I would hope and I would ask that the speaker change that position and not take an all-or-nothing approach.”

House Speaker Ron Mariano has repeatedly called the exclusion of college sports a "dealbreaker."

“I think there’s an opportunity to include college sports, rather than let it be only handled by bookies,” Mariano told reporters last week. “I mean, I don’t understand if you’re going to do sports betting why you would leave out Final Four bowl games and the whole college football season. It doesn’t seem to be worth doing if you’re going to leave those.”

Despite a much lower, 15%, tax rate than the Senate's bill, which would set a 35% tax rate the House's bill is projected to raise nearly twice as much tax revenue, at between $60 million to $70 million a year.

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In-State Ban Unlikely

Massachusetts House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, who sits on the conference committee told MassLive earlier this week he's still hopeful about a deal.

“A lot can get done in a short amount of time, as we’ve seen,” Michlewitz said.

A likely compromise would be to ban betting only on in-state colleges, but if that were to happen it probably already would have, an industry source told Action Network.

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