The US legal sports betting yo-yo in Massachusetts has once again taken a positive step toward a potential launch with the announcement that the Massachusetts House voted 156-3 voted again in favor of a draft set of rules to govern what has potential to be a Heavyweight market within the US betting scene.
It is not the first time that the House has overwhelmingly approved a set of guidelines for a legal sports betting platform. The last time, the Senate ultimately stalled out on a potential plan, leaving lawmakers to try again to pass something before the start of the NFL season in September. This time the House took only 20 minutes to vote yes.
We are left with an expansive and complete Bill lying in the hands of the state Senators. Governor Charlie Baker has all-but assured that he will sign any piece of legislation that would bring legal sports betting to his state. His desire for sports betting is not a secret. He drafted up his own legislation earlier this year – it went nowhere. He has also already included any potential revenue from such a platform in his next state budget.
The New Draft
House Bill 3977 was agreed upon quickly Thursday and features a few amendments that may sway Senators to finally sign off. The Bill represents the 13th different draft and for the most part, follows the template of many other jurisdictions that are currently thriving in the US scene.
As it is written, Bill 3977 will allow for three separate types of licenses. Casinos would have their own category, racetracks would be another and mobile licenses, which figure to make up the bulk of the industry would have its own separate classification. According to the rules, mobile licences would be uncapped. eSports would be legalized under the plan as well.
The one unique aspect of the Bill is the call for “untethered” licenses which would mean that mobile sportsbooks could stand alone and not have to partner up with an existing sportsbook. Massachusetts would represent the first jurisdiction that model would be tried and could be the sticking point Senators are looking for.
The application fee is $100,000 with a license fee of $5 million for five years and another $5 million renewal fee for five years. If an operator receives a $1 million temporary license, the initial fee becomes $4 million. Prospective sportsbooks will be expected to pay a 12.5% tax on retail and a 15% on mobile wagering in the state.
Just about everybody, outside of the Massachusetts Senate has signaled their support for a legal sports betting platform in the state. The Governor, the state’s professional teams, sportsbook operators, and residents of the state are eager for a platform launch. It is widely known that gambling has been taking place in the state for decades thanks to offshore sportsbooks and now neighboring states that currently allow for legal sports betting.
“It is time for us to send a message to our friends in the Senate that today we vote unanimously, as a House,” said Rep. Michael Soter. “And I’m asking you, as a colleague on the border of the state of Rhode Island, that we unanimously send a message to our colleagues in the Senate saying that the people, the people we work for, want this legislation. “Turn on the radio, turn on the news. Everybody wants this legislation. We don’t have to go to a ballot or find out where people in the commonwealth are, we know where they are. Listen to them, you represent them.
What’s at Stake
There is a lot on the line for sports betting providers, bettors and tax coffers that will benefit handsomely from legalization in Massachusetts. “Sports betting in Massachusetts isn’t new – it’s alive and well and has been for quite some time,” Sen. Brendan Crighton, top legal sports betting advocate said. “… I think it’s time for a change and I do believe we’re headed in that direction.”
Jerald Parisella, the House chair on the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies has heard estimates of $60 million in annual tax revenue as a conservative estimate for the Massachusetts scene with plenty of room to grow. That tax revenue could be used for some needy programs and to mitigate some of the post-COVID deficits Massachusetts faces.
Massachusetts is currently home to about 7 million residents (15th largest in the country), teams in every major sport in North America and a rabid fanbase. The sports betting market is expected to be huge… when it finally opens up.
With the lack of Senate action on the first House Bill sent them, it would be premature to think any legalization is a sure thing. But a 156-3 vote for is a good indication that the momentum may be there this time and that the Senate may be ready to act. As for a launch date? The start of the NFL season, which is obviously optimal for any prospective market seems out of reach at this point.
The end of the NFL season or in time for the Super Bowl seems more realistic at this point in time. So, it is wait-and-see time yet again for proponents of a Massachusetts legal sports betting scene unfortunately. Hopes are that this time the Senate will act on something seemingly everyone on their state wants.