Massachusetts looks increasingly likely to follow New York and Rhode Island in authorizing sports betting as part of its annual state budget process, pending legislative action in coming weeks.
Two amendments are filed for consideration as part of the Senate fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget, which is scheduled for Senate floor debate beginning on May 25. Each proposal would create a licensing process for Massachusetts sports betting, with some specific differences:
- Sen. Bruce Tarr’s amendment would allow retail and online sports betting tethered to facilities with a sports wagering lounge, such as casinos, and through select horse racetracks.
- Joint Committee Chair Sen. Paul Feeney’s proposal would create tiered sports betting licenses for gaming establishments, horse racetracks, and mobile platforms that offer fantasy sports betting. Any license holder would be able to accept wagers by mobile app from persons physically located in the commonwealth, with casinos and tracks licensed for in-person betting.
Senate approval of one of the proposals would set sports betting up for debate in the FY 2022 budget conference committee – a group of lawmakers that will decide what stays and what goes in whatever budget bill is put to a final vote.
After passage the budget will go to the governor, hopefully in time for the new fiscal year that starts July 1, 2021.
Massachusetts Sports Betting Proposals In 2021
Sports betting didn’t make it into the House budget plan in late April when that chamber passed a $47.7 billion budget proposal for FY 2022.
The exclusion confounded sportsbook advocates, many of whom anticipated action on the issue after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had included $35 million in sports betting revenue in his proposed budget last January.
Fans of sports betting — including a bipartisan group of Massachusetts lawmakers who sponsored no fewer than 12 sports betting proposals in the current first annual legislative session– remain hopeful that legalization can be worked out by the budget conference committee sometime this spring.
Budget approval of sports betting in coming weeks could set Massachusetts up for a late 2021 or early 2022 launch.
A Brief History Of Massachusetts Sports Betting
2021 is the second consecutive year that The Bay State has considered legalization of sports betting by amendment.
Last year, the Senate rejected a sports wagering amendment proposed by Sen. Tarr during the 2020 legislative session that ended in January. All five of the commonwealth’s major league teams plus the PGA Tour, FanDuel, DraftKings, and MGM Springfield sent a joint letter to lawmakers imploring them to reach some agreement on legal sports betting.