Will Massachusetts Legalize Sports Betting in 2020?


Photo credit: Darren McCollester/Getty Images for DraftKings. Pictured: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at DraftKings headquarters in Boston

Given the huge market of Boston and its current affiliation with sports betting — DraftKings, one of the biggest platforms in the U.S. was founded and still has its headquarters there — Massachusetts is a state industry enthusiasts are definitely keeping their eye on.

And that was spurred on by encouraging words in 2019 from Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker in an interview with Radio.com:

“This [legalized sports betting] is going to be a thing pretty much everywhere, and our view was ‘we should get on with the show.’ The legislature held a hearing on it [in spring 2019]. I certainly hope we get this done by the end of the legislative session, which is [summer] of 2020. But I would’ve liked to see it done sooner.”

Baker also mentioned that Massachusetts was using New Jersey‘s legislation as a template, which is good news since that likely infers full online sports betting. And indeed, the current bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, H.4559, allows for up to five online-only operators.

The question is whether state legislators are able to move on the bill in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The writer of the bill, state senator Brendan Crighton, highlighted that challenge in a recent interview with Legal Sports Betting: “The biggest challenges right now are the many COVID-19 policy matters that must be a top priority. While I believe in the merits and benefits of legalization, I recognize that our focus right now is keeping people safe during this crisis.”

There’s still time, though, if Massachusetts decides to push forward: The state actually has one of the later ends to its legislative session. While many states end between March-May, Massachusetts’ end date is July 31, 2020.

Given the support from Governor Baker, reports out of the state and the likely heavy lobbying from DraftKings and other Massachusetts-based betting companies, it’s not if but when sports betting will come to the state. And it seems to depend on the fallout of the pandemic, which is hard to predict.

Some final notes on the current sports betting bill in Massachusetts:

  • It will be legal to bet on college sports, although not on in-play college prop bets.
  • Betting on high school sports or ones with minor athletes will be prohibited.
  • eSports betting will not be allowed in this bill, nor would betting on the Olympics.
  • The tax rate will be 10% on in-person handles and 12% for online/mobile.

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