Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Advances To House Budget Committee

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A Massachusetts state legislative committee today substituted 12 sports betting bills with one proposal that could be the commonwealth’s best chance to legalize sportsbooks this year. 

H.3974 — which would create three categories of licenses covering casinos, racetracks and OTBs, and mobile/online — was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee today after being quietly reported out of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee this morning. The vote came after committee members were reportedly polled over the weekend on their support for the bill. 

Sources say the bill is based on H.506 sponsored by Rep. Dan Cahill of Lynn. The new sponsor is the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emergency Technologies chaired on the Senate side by Sen. Eric Lesser — a strong supporter of legalized sports betting in the commonwealth.

At least 20 separate sports betting bills have been filed for consideration in 2021-2022 first annual session of the Massachusetts General Court, with the last day for formal legislative action this year scheduled for Nov. 17. 

An attempt to legalize Massachusetts sports betting through the state budget process failed in May

Three Licenses, Two Tiers

The current proposal would be cited in state law as the “Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act” if it is enacted.

Three categories of licenses would be created under the bill:

  • Category 1 license for casinos to offer sports betting both in-person and through no more than three “individually branded mobile applications or other digital platforms.”
  • Category 2 license for horse tracks and OTBs that simulcast horse and greyhound racing to offer sports betting both in-person and through one individually branded mobile app or online platform. 
  • Mobile apps or online platform assigned to the other two categories of licensees must be under a separate Category 3 license that allows sports wagering through mobile app or other online platform approved by the state. 

And, there would be two types, or tiers, or sports bets allowed. Tier 1 wagers will be traditional bets placed before the event and determined by the final score or outcome. Tier 2 wagers will be any other kind of sports bets, including prop bets, single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, over-under, moneyline, pools, exchange wagering, in-game wagering, in-play, and straight bets. 

No betting would be allowed on the performance of individual athletes in any collegiate sports or athletic event, or on any high school or youth sports event. 

What Are The Proposed Licensing Fees And Tax Rates? 

Being a sports betting operator in Massachusetts under the proposed legislation won’t be cheap. A licensing fee of $5 million would be required of any “qualified gaming entity” wanting to offer sports betting. 

That license would be good for five years, and renewable for another five years for $5 million, per the bill. 

The proposed tax rate under the proposal is 12.5 percent of the licensee’s adjusted gross receipts for in-person sports betting. The tax rate for mobile and online sports betting adjusted gross sports wagering receipts would be 15 percent. 

What’s Next? 

The Massachusetts legislature will recess at the end of July for summer break throughout August, and at least part of September. It’s uncertain if the House budget committee plans to take up the proposal before the break begins. 

No upcoming hearings are scheduled for the House Ways and Means Committee for now. But, as today’s committee vote shows, things can happen unexpectedly on Beacon Hill, so stay tuned. 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region 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, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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