Time Running Short on Massachusetts Sports Betting Agreement

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says he'd sign a sports betting bill (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Massachusetts state lawmakers have about 13 days to sign off on legal sports betting before the legislature switches gears next month. But after five weeks of closed talks, an agreement seems iffy.

On Monday, WGBH News/Greater Boston reporter Katie Lannan reported that a select committee working to reach a final agreement still appears stuck on key points, including the legalization of collegiate sports betting.

Legislation passed by the House a year ago would allow betting on college sports. In April, the Senate amended that bill to prohibit betting on all college sports.

Still, Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano has told the press he is leaving open the possibility that sports betting will pass, according to Lannan.

“He said that both sides were going to have to be willing to move to get to a deal. We don’t know how much they might have moved at this point,” she reported. “One of the big sticking points is around college sports betting.”

How much sports betting should be taxed and what consumer protections should be implemented, she said, are also still being debated.

Mass Sports Betting in Time for Super Bowl Hinges on Swift Action

It’s possible that Mariano wants to step out of the middle of the debate and let the select committee — a conference committee of six state lawmakers, three from each house — do its work before the legislature’s formal session ends July 31.

Massachusetts State Rep. Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, is the House gaming issues chair and one of the six lawmakers on the select committee. MassLive reported July 8 that Parisella is “hopeful” a sports betting bill will pass before the formal session ends.

Getting a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker by the end of this month would put the commonwealth on track for a launch by Super Bowl 2023, Parisella told MassLive.

Baker has told reporters he will sign sports betting into law, given the chance.

What Happens After July 31?

The likelihood of a Massachusetts sports betting launch by early 2023 depends on what happens within the next two weeks.

Only non-controversial bills will be considered on Beacon Hill during the state legislature’s informal session held from Aug. 1, 2022 through early Jan. 2023, when a new biennial legislative session begins. Sports betting legislation is generally considered controversial — including in Massachusetts, where passage of sports betting appears far from final.

A brand-new sports betting bill would have to be filed for consideration next year if current proposals stall.

Action by July 31 would put the Bay State on a much surer path toward launch early next year.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
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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