Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Limits Mobile Licenses To Six

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Six mobile/online licenses would be the limit for Massachusetts sports betting under a Senate bill expected to come to a floor vote any day.  

The clear limit on the number of mobile sports betting licenses proposed in S.269 contrasts with H.3993, advanced by the state House last week. That bill, as it now stands, appears to set no limit on the number of possible mobile “category 3” licenses available, leaving the final decisions up to regulators at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

“The commission may issue a category 3 license to any entity that offers sports wagering through a mobile application or other digital platform that meets the requirements,” the House proposal states. 

Both bills were approved earlier this month by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies co-chaired by Sen. Eric Lesser, the lead sponsor of S.269 and an outspoken opponent of betting on college sports. 

Only the House proposal — for now — would allow college sports betting in Massachusetts.

No Tethering

Whatever mobile sportsbooks are approved by the state won’t be tethered under either bill. 

Casinos and racetracks with licensed in-person sports betting would be eligible for so many skins (three per casino, one per track) under agreement with a licensed mobile or other online platform. But the mobile licensees could accept bets from across the commonwealth. 

Individuals anywhere in the state would be able to bet through their mobile or online sports wagering account under both bills, as long as they are physically — not just virtually — in the Bay State when they place their wagers. 

No tethering also means that the cost of tax and licensing will fall to mobile licensees, although those tax and license fees would be different for mobile operators under each bill. Here’s how the proposals match up: 

Senate Proposal (S.269)

Application Fee: $2 million minimum

Initial Licensing Fee: $7.5 million, renewable after five years

Renewal License Fee: $3 million

Tax: In-person licensees – 20 percent; Mobile/online licensees – 25 percent (adjusted gross wagering receipts)

House Proposal (H.3993)

Application Fee: $100,000 minimum

Initial Licensing Fee: $1 million, credited toward a five-year license

License Fee (five years): $5 million

Renewal License Fee: $5 million

Tax: In-person licensees – 12.5 percent; Mobile/online licensees – 15 percent (adjusted gross sports wagering receipts) 

Separate License For Data Companies? 

The Senate bill would also let the state gaming commission issue one or more licenses to companies that sell team, player, and other eligible data for end-game or live in-person sports betting in the commonwealth. 

“The commission shall issue a license or licenses under this section pursuant to an open and competitive selection process and shall determine the most appropriate number of data supplier licensees in the commonwealth,” the proposal states. 

That would exclude any data used for betting on amateur sporting events, of course. Besides college games and athletic events, S.269 would prohibit betting on the Olympics and high school sports or athletic contests. 

Here’s what we know so far about the data supplier license costs: 

Application Fee – $1 million min

Initial Licensing Fee – $5 million, renewable after five years

Renewal License Fee – $2 million

Politics, Politics

Sports betting is big money, and wherein lies big money lies politics. Bipartisan legislative support is often enough to get a bill through, or at least to the governor. 

So, why is Massachusetts considering two different sports betting bills in a state where both major parties seem to want to legalize sportsbooks? 

The college sports betting issue is one sticking point. Lesser is a Democrat and a longtime sports betting supporter, but he opposes betting on collegiate athletes.  So does Governor Charlie Baker, the sponsor of H.70 which was a contender for passage in the lower chamber until  H.3993 passed the House overwhelmingly last week. Leaving college sports betting out of the Senate bill could be a bargaining chip in talks with the governor and other lawmakers who share his views. 

Another possibility is that Lesser and his fellow Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies co-chair Rep. Jerry Parisella — who supports college sports betting — want to lay out all the possibilities and let the two chambers hash out details in a conference committee. 

That’s normal, and it could work, as long as the chambers work quickly. Right now they have until Nov. 17 to get something passed that would legalize sports betting in the commonwealth, maybe by the Super Bowl. 

The next step is to see what happens in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where a hearing on one or both proposals could come this week. 

 

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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