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Sports Betting Bill Moving Forward in Massachusetts Legislature

The state of Massachusetts finally got some good news regarding the possibility of the launch of a legal sports betting platform when, on Friday, a legislative panel tasked with studying the subject finally came up with something of substance for lawmakers to consider.

Debate on legal sports betting legislation has been a bit of a slog in Massachusetts since the 2018 decision to overturn the wagering ban that included every state but Nevada. 17 states have, or are in various stages of making sports betting legal including Massachusetts neighbors Rhode Island and New Hampshire but Mass is seen as the biggest fish in New England.

With the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball, the New England Patriots of the National Football League, the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League, and the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, the appetite for a sports betting platform in Massachusetts is definitely there as will be the throng of lucrative partnership deals if and when the state finally legalizes.


Under consideration

The decision-makers in Massachusetts will be considering exactly what a legal betting platform in the state would look like. As of now, the legislation released Friday would have both a mobile and retail component and would include college and professional sports.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission would have control of the platform and write the actual rules for the state. Betting, under the new plan would take place at the state’s resort casinos (MGM, Wynn Resorts and Penn National Gaming), the lone slots parlor, tracks with live horse racing, and over the internet with as many as many as five online-only operators competing for gambling dollars. The legislation stipulates that those five operators would need at least one year of experience running an online platform in at least two other states.

Bettors in the state would have to be at least 21 years of age and wagers would have to take place within the state lines.



Tax revenue is perhaps the biggest motivator for getting states on board with their legal sports betting platforms. Those that haven't gone live yet can see how other state coffers are being topped up by legal sports betting operations.

Under the proposed legislation in Massachusetts, companies will be taxed at a rate of 10 percent of the gross revenue from sports wagers placed in person and 12 percent of the revenue from bets placed online or on mobile apps. Fantasy sports contest operators would be taxed at 12 percent. A figure of $20 million annually for state and local programs has been floated as a realistic estimate for what legal sports betting will contribute to Massachusetts.

Just where the tax revenue will end up is still being debated but the legislations does stipulate some of the money going to a Collegiate Health, Wellness, and Education Fund. 5% of sports betting revenues will go to help college athletes with the temptations and pressures associated with a legal sports betting platform.


The Chances

Ideally, Massachusetts would have their legal sports betting platform up and running for the 2020-2021 NFL season and that is still a possibility. There is a ton of work to do for Massachusetts legislators in the four months before this session closes however. The state budget, a tax-hiking transportation bill, health care legislation and an expected economic development bill all have to be done before the state is plunged into 2020 election-mania.

It all means a decision will be made about the direction of a legal wagering platform in the state sooner rather than later. Bettors in Massachusetts won’t have to wait long to find out if they will have to wait longer or if legalized sports betting will indeed become a reality in their sports-crazed state.