Massachusetts Inches Closer to Sports Betting as Senate Version of Bill Passes
Legalized sports betting moved a step closer to reality Thursday night in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts State Senate debated for more than 5½ hours on 71 amendments for Senate Bill 2844 for legalized sports betting in the state.
After the debate, the bill was ordered to a third reading, which was read and passed to be engrossed. The amendment, as recommended by the committee on Senate Ways and Means, was adopted as amended with a ban on college sports betting and with a 35% tax rate on revenue from online bets.
Once a bill is engrossed, it moves to the House, where the process is repeated. If the bill is engrossed there, it will be sent to the Legislative Engrossing Division to be typed on special parchment as required by law.
The final vote tally on those amendments: 19 adopted, 22 ejected, 30 withdrawn.
Senate, House Bills Much Different
The Senate bill greatly differs from the House version, where both sides are divided on key issues, including college sports, advertising and marketing and tax rates. A House conference committee will be set up to debate even further and work out any issues moving forward in the hopes of moving to a final piece of legislation. That committee could be appointed as early as next week.
Last July, the House-approved bill to allow sports betting passed by a 156-3 vote.
The Senate also agreed that when it actually comes to voting on a sports betting bill, it will do so by a voice vote without recording the positions of each senator.
During the debate, Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) went over the two different categories of licenses that are included in the Senate bill.
Category 1 would be for existing casinos, slot parlors and racetracks. Category 2 would be up to six licenses across the state from a competitive bidding process that would be implemented.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be in charge of regulating sports betting in the state.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature would be needed on a final bill before the general session ends on July 31. Baker, who has long supported legalized betting in the Bay State, is not seeking re-election this year.
The state is coming off a record month for casinos.
There are no real money online casino options in Massachusetts.
“More than 30 states allow for legal, regulated sports betting, and it’s time for Massachusetts to follow suit," said Martin Lycka, senior vice president for American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling for Entain, one of the world's largest sports betting and gaming groups.
“Given Governor Baker’s support of legalized sports wagering, I find it likely that he will ultimately sign the bill, setting up Massachusetts as the 31st state to reap the benefits of legal sports betting.”
Lou Monaco had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene with emphasis on NJ and PA. He also currently is a part-time writer for the high school sports department for NJ Advanced Media (NJ.com) in Iselin, NJ. Lou has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.