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Senate President Karyn Polito is pushing forward on Massachusetts sports betting legislation (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Anyone who thinks Massachusetts sports betting is dead this year could be right. Or they could be wrong. 

On Monday, the Bay State’s top state senator said she isn’t counting anything out as a legislative conference committee continues to work toward an agreement in the current legislative session’s final five days. The session ends July 31. 

“Believe it or not, we’re looking at sports betting, and I hope we do get something done,” Senate President Karen Spilka was quoted as saying in a June 25 story on MassLive

Measured Optimism in the Session’s Final Days

Spilka’s comments were more optimistic than those House Speaker Ron Mariano made to the press last week. Mariano called sports betting negotiations “far apart” in remarks made last Thursday, according to MassLive

A top sticking point has been collegiate sports betting. Although supported by a majority in the House in 2021, collegiate sports betting was stripped from a sports betting bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate last spring. 

Spilka said allowing wagering on college sports is “up for negotiations, but I really hope that the approach is not an all-or-nothing bill.” 

Massachusetts Casinos Ask State Lawmakers To Act This Week

Massachusetts’ three full-service casinos are pushing hard for sports betting in the final days of the legislative current session. 

The three casinos – MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino (Penn National), and Encore Boston Harbor (Wynn Resorts) – were authorized under a 2011 expanded gambling law and would be key players in a potential Bay State sportsbook market. On Monday, they sent a letter to Massachusetts state lawmakers that asked them to legalize sports betting this week. 

Massachusetts is lagging behind other states that have legalized sports betting since a federal prohibition on state regulation of sportsbooks was repealed in 2018, the letter emphasized.

“Today, 35 states have legalized sports betting, including the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and no resident of the Commonwealth is more than an hour’s drive from a state where legal sports betting is available,” the letter states. “As a result, our competitors in these states are now offering a significant amenity and service we are prohibited from offering in Massachusetts.”

The result, the letter states, is lost revenue – both for the casinos and the commonwealth. 

“With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, we respectfully implore you to seize on the opportunity to level the playing field in this hyper-competitive industry,” states the letter. 

“We remain readily available to share our policy and operational expertise and work with you towards the establishment of a successful sports wagering market in the Commonwealth.” 

How Mass Senate And House Sports Betting Proposals Compare

A conference committee of six state lawmakers, including three senators and three representatives, have worked on sports betting legislation for several weeks this summer. 

Legalized collegiate sports betting has been a major point of disagreement between the Massachusetts Senate and House over the past year. 

Other differences between the Senate proposal and the House proposal include: 

  • Tax changes. The Senate proposal would tax operator revenue at 20% on in-person bets and 35% on online bets. The House had proposed a 12.5% tax on retail bets and a 15% tax on online bets. 
  • Credit card use. The Senate proposal would prohibit using credit cards to place a sports wager, while the House proposal would not. Both chambers would allow debit cards to be used to place a sports bet.
About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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