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Currently, Massachusetts gamblers have no problem placing bets on sports, it’s just that they are forced to use unregulated offshore sportsbooks or their illegal neighborhood bookies to do it, and lately they can even make the drive to nearby states where that activity is legal.
No legal sports betting market exists in Massachusetts the way it does in over thirty other states right now, so on Thursday Codfish State lawmakers launched a conference committee that is designed to reach a compromise on all the dealbreakers that are holding back this issue.
Work begins Thursday on finding a compromise for the Massachusetts sports betting bill. The sports betting conference committee will meet tomorrow at 2 p.m. and try to find common ground to potentially legalize sports betting in the commonwealth.
— RLinnehanXL (@RLinnehanXl) June 8, 2022
There are two approaches to how the sports betting bill could look and therefore two separate visions of what that legal Massachusetts market would look like, with the House leaning towards a more open operation while the Senate seems to be envisioning a stricter version.
The chamber differences break down into three main issues.
So far, both state chambers have passed a sports betting bill that the other has found unacceptable due to fundamental differences over three main issues – college sports betting, unrestricted advertising, and a fair tax rate for the state and the sportsbooks involved.
College sports betting – the issue is whether Massachusetts wants its resident bettors to be able to place wagers on college sporting events, and the House bill is all for it while the Senate bill is against it, that’s despite the fact that most every other open market now allows for it.
Unrestricted advertising – for sportsbooks to attract new customers, they must advertise in relevant markets, and in order to protect the general public, the Senate bill would place heavy restrictions on that activity whereas the House bill would allow for more commercial freedom.
Fair tax rate – every state that legalizes sports betting must decide on a tax rate to charge the sportsbooks on their revenue, and in Massachusetts the Senate wants a significantly higher tax rate than the House does on both in-person (20% vs 12.5%) and mobile (35% vs 15%) revenue.
Compromise on these issues will be tough to reach, especially given the impending deadline.
The current Massachusetts legislative session is scheduled to end on July 31, so that means lawmakers have until then to figure out how to please both sides of the arguments, and so far it has been a tough hill to climb, so much so that the AGA issued clear a warning to lawmakers.
The American Gaming Association’s message was clear – allow for college sports betting, minimally restricted gaming ads, and a tax rate that is fair for both sides or else the delays that will result from inaction will cost the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.
Meanwhile, Bay State punters will continue to feed the black market with their illicit action, or else make the trip to either New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, or Rhode Island where that activity has already been made legal, but either way that money will leave the state for good.
Compromise is tough, but in this case stubbornness is expensive, so expect MA lawmakers to begin to see the light and keep checking back for all the latest news and updates on this ongoing New England drama.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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