- A conference committee of state lawmakers will meet Thursday to discuss the Massachusetts sports betting bill
- The House and Senate have both passed a sports betting bill, but differ on several key points
- Lawmakers will have to reach a compromise by July 31
Senators and representatives will begin working on a Massachusetts sports betting compromise on Thursday at 2 p.m.
State lawmakers hope to hash out the differences between two potential bills and and come to a sports betting agreement before the legislative session concludes on July 31.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Conference Committee
Massachusetts sports betting hopes are now on the shoulders of six conference committee members who hope to negotiate a new sports betting bill that will appeal to all lawmakers in the state.
The House of Representatives appointed Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-3rd Suffolk), Rep. David Muradian (R-9th Worcester), and Rep. Jerald Parisella (D-6th Essex) to represent their interests in the conference committee.
The Senate appointed Sens Eric P. Lesser (D-1st Hampden and Hampshire), Patrick O’Connor (R-Plymouth and Norfolk), and Michael Rodrigues (D-1st Bristol and Plymouth).
The representatives have their work cut out for them in finding common ground. The House and Senate approved sports betting bills both have key differences that may make a compromise difficult.
Key Sports Betting Differences
The Senate approved bill sets its retail sports betting tax rate at 20% and the online sports betting tax rate at 35%, the bill allows for sports bets to be funded by debit cards or digital payment, but does not allow for credit cards to fund bets.
The bill also does not allow college sports betting and also imposes some of the strictest restrictions on marketing and advertising in the country. The law would not allow televised sports events in Massachusetts to air sports betting advertisements or broadcasts to mention sports betting sponsorships on air.
The House approved bill calls for much lower rates, with online sports betting at 15% and retail sports betting at 12.5%, and also allows collegiate sports betting. It features much less restrictive advertising and marketing rules and allows sports bettors to fund bets with a credit card.
The Senate bill allows for nine sports betting licenses, one for each brick-and-mortar casino in the state, and six untethered online sports betting licenses. The House bill allows each of the state casinos a sports betting license and up to three online sports betting skins. It also allows one license per state racetracks (the Senate bill does not) and one online sports betting skin. Finally, it allows for unlimited untethered online sports betting licenses, as long as they are approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Gov. Baker Hoping for Sports Betting Deal
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is hoping a bill is sent to his desk, as the Massachusetts governor has been a longtime proponent of sports betting.
Baker actually proposed his own sports betting bill last year, though it never received a vote in either of the legislative bodies.
Last week, after the Celtics Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, Baker touted the need for sports betting in the state to drive customers away from the unregulated black market, as reported by Mass Live.
“There are a lot of people who literally just drive out of Massachusetts so that they can bet on sports, and it’s happening all over the country,” Baker said, according to Mass Live. “And without a legal way to do this, it’s a little bit like the marijuana issue. You just leave the black market there, and you don’t sort of bring it out of the shadows and make it part of the regular crime. I think we should do that.”
The series now shifts back to Boston, where the Golden State Warriors are currently favored in NBA Championship odds heading into Game 3. It will be interesting to see if the NBA Finals have any impact on lawmakers reaching a compromise for Massachusetts sports betting.