Massachusetts Sports Betting: Will It Beat California To The Finish Line?

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Governors of rival states are known to make a friendly sports wager or two. So it was no surprise when the governors of Massachusetts and California went to Twitter with an NBA Finals challenge ahead of Friday’s Game 4 matchup between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors

If the Celtics win the championship, California Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to wear a Celtics jersey. If the Warriors win, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts will represent the Golden State in the No. 30 jersey of star Stephen Curry  – presumably at least long enough for a photo. 

Simple enough. And legal. But it is hard to miss the irony of any kind of sports wager between governors of two of the largest states that have yet to legalize sports betting. 

That said, Massachusetts appears closer than California to legalization. 

CA vs. MA: Where Do Both States Stand on Legal Sports Betting? 

Newsom seems more than happy to leave the issue up to voters of his state. California has at least two referendums headed for the ballot in November. Any chance for legal sports betting in California within the next year is likely dependent on the results at the ballot this fall.

In Massachusetts, the fate of legal sports betting – at least for now –  rests with state lawmakers. Yet differences remain between legislation passed by the Senate on April 28 and a House proposal passed in July 2021. One of the sticking points is whether to allow betting on college sports in Massachusetts. The House included college sports betting in its proposal, but the Senate proposal excluded it. 

Now an ad hoc “conference” committee of state lawmakers is trying to hash out the college betting issue and other disagreements. Conferees from the Senate and House met Thursday, mostly out of the public eye.  They have little more than a month left to reach an agreement in the formal legislative session, set to end July 31

Massachusetts Will Legalize Sports Betting, Legal Expert Says

According to comments made Thursday by legal sports betting expert Dan Wallach, it is only a matter of time before the Bay State goes legal. Wallach told SportsGrid he expects the conference committee to reach an agreement and a bill to make it to Baker in the coming months.  

“It’s the only time in the history of the post-PASPA era where two separate houses of the state legislature, the House and Senate, have each passed a sports betting bill,” said Wallach. PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) was a 1992 federal law prohibiting states outside Nevada from regulating sports betting. It was struck down by the US Supreme Court in May 2018. 

“Whichever deal these committee members agree to, their chamber at large will fall in line and pass the bill. And Governor Baker is not going to veto this bill,” Wallach said. 

College sports betting is only part of any potential compromise. Use of credit cards by sports bettors and tax rates are also being debated on Beacon Hill. None of those issues should sink a compromise, according to Wallach. 

“There’s a middle ground that can be achieved in each and every one of those points,” he said. “Even on collegiate betting, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

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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