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It seems Massachusetts State Senator Eric Lesser (D) has taken a cue from other US states toward orchestrating the right, successful proposal for his state to introduce legalized sports wagering. This action follows an open acknowledgment and key endorsement for sports betting by Governor Charlie Baker (R).
He explained in a press conference on Monday, his new bill reflects research on the issue concerning how other states have handled sports gaming, as well as the specific needs necessary for the Bay State. Lesser chairs the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies for the Senate
Sen. Lesser has written a new bill proposal saying the contents could successfully generate millions of dollars in necessary tax revenue for the state. During the press conference, he outlined the details of his sports betting bill, acknowledging inspiration from other states that have adopted sports wagering.
He said he has looked at what’s worked well in other states. His bill is “attempting to strike the right balance.
In further explaining the purpose of his actions, Lesser said:
If done correctly, the idea here is to bring sports betting into the daylight, legalize it, and, in a real-time way, monitor it so that potential violations or problems can be quickly identified and dealt with. It’s really going to be about partnership between these operators and the Gaming Commission to ensure that the whole process is done as safely as possible.”
Sen. Lesser’s bill is one of approximately a dozen similar pieces of legislation filed by last week’s deadline. They all place sports wagering under the control of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, allowing three distinct sports betting license types to permit wagering at casinos and the slots parlor, at live horse racing tracks or simulcast centers, plus through mobile apps or online wagering platforms.
All bettors would have to be at least 21 years of age or older.
The bill includes a consumer safeguard protecting problem gambling. Its verbiage is akin to provisions mandated by casinos when Massachusetts expanded gaming in 2013. Included in the bill is the opportunity to allow gamblers to add themselves to an exclusion list, thereby producing regulations for compulsive and problem gambling.
Lesser mentioned that another key consumer protection within the bill is prohibiting the use of wagering with a credit card. Regarding the issue of problem gaming, he commented:
The vast majority of people are looking to just have some fun, it’s a form of recreation to bet on their favorite sports team. But we do know, of course, that there are people that might have addiction issues, might have problems.
Under the plan, there will be a tax rate of 20 percent on Category 1 and 2 licenses and a 25 percent tax on Category 3. When questioned about the high tax rates, Lesser explained “the tax rate is a moving target. Some states are lower, but Rhode Island and New Hampshire are significantly higher.
A Category 1 and 2 will have a $1 million application fee. Subsequently, Category 1 will have a $2.5 million initial license fee with Category 2 having an initial license fee of $1.5 million.
Online gambling will have six licenses available in Massachusetts and will have a $2 million application fee and a $7.5 million initial license fee.
In response to the bill ruling out all wagering on college sports, Lesser noted Rhode Island does allow it, while New Jersey will not allow any wagers on teams located in New Jersey. “All Division One schools in the commonwealth are against sports betting.”
All sides seem intent on moving forward for sports wagering in Massachusetts with more debate upon specific issues within the legislation including high tax fees and application costs, wagering rules, etc.
Regulating sports wagering seems to be a decided issue for the next legislative session. With State Senator Lesser leading the way it will likely be in the hands of Governor Baker to help push the timetable through later this year.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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