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Massachusetts Spots Betting Talks at Impasse in Final Days of Session

Massachusetts Spots Betting Talks at Impasse in Final Days of Session article feature image
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

The outlook for Massachusetts to legalize sports betting this year grows increasingly bleak by the day.

A conference committee formed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate over industry regulation is “still far apart,” according to multiple sources. Lawmakers have just nine days left to pass and send a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker, who urged them to act, or they’ll have to try again next year.

“I give it maybe a 30% chance,” said Brandt Iden, head of government affairs for Sportradar and a former Michigan legislator. “It looks like it’s going to be another year we had high hopes, and they fell flat.”

Stalemate on College Sports Betting

House Speaker Ron Mariano told reporters at the state house Thursday, he doesn’t know if the bill will make it to the finish line in time, adding “we’re far apart.”

The bill he helped pass in the House would impose a lower tax rate and fewer restrictions than a different version passed by the Senate, but whether or not Bay Staters should be able to bet on college sports has been the biggest roadblock.

The Senate’s appointed Sens. Eric Lesser, Patrick O’Connor and Michael Rodrigues have reportedly been steadfast against college betting. The bill their chamber passed in April would institute one of the first ever blanket bans on all college betting.

Mariano told reporters a ban on college sports would leave a huge chunk of the betting calendar to bookies.

A handful of states have restricted betting on their own colleges, as a legislative compromise to concerns over mixing gambling and “amateur” sports. Oregon, which limits mobile betting to one operator, is the only state with a blanket collegiate betting ban.

“Collegiate betting is a huge deal,” Iden said. “Unless they can politically trade for something else, I don’t think they get there.”

None of the lawmakers appointed to the conference committee responded to requests for comment.

Most of East Coast is Legal

Massachusetts and Vermont are the only New England states yet to legalize sports betting. Their closest illegal state is Kentucky.

A whopping 28% of bets placed on March Madness and the Super Bowl in New Hampshire come from Massachusetts residents, according to Boston-based DraftKings, the state’s sole mobile operator.

During the Boston Celtics’ NBA Finals run, Massachusetts residents accounted for 35% of bets placed on the team in New Hampshire.

Along with South Carolina and Georgia, Massachusetts is one of just three states on the East Coast yet to pass a sports betting law.

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