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Senate Bill 177, a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, has been officially filed by Senator Brendan Crighton. A prior version of the bill passed the House but died when the Senate failed to vote on it before the end of the last legislative session.
Lawmakers will now discuss and debate whether to legalize wagers on sporting events in Massachusetts soon, following Sen. Crighton’s introduction of a new bill last week.
Included within the main structure of Crighton’s bill, people over the age of 21 could place bets on sporting events at the state’s casinos, slot parlors, and simulcast facilities. The Massachusetts state gaming commission would regulate wagering in the state. It would be mandatory for casinos to renew their licenses every five years and pay a $1.25 million renewal fee.
In an interview with CommonWealth, Crighton commented:
Looking at the states around us, folks are going to bet on sports whether or not we legalize this, but right now the money’s going to the black market and to other states. With the black market, you are not getting any consumer protections. We think it is important to bring people out of the shadows into the regulated market.
An initial application fee would be $10 million for any entity operating a sportsbook in the state with a required renewal rate of $1.25 million every five years. By Crighton’s estimates, $70 million could be generated in Massachusetts through initial applications.
There would be no cap set to the number of sportsbooks licensed to operate under the bill. Crighton reported he left this detail open-ended because it would be a topic of discussion during hearings and at that time a decision would be made.
No wagering on college sports involving Massachusetts state universities would be allowed. A request made by the state’s institutions.
Qualifying onsite locations for sports wagering in Massachusetts will include off-track wagering establishments, horse racing facilities, and the two casinos located in the state. Mobile/online-only sports betting platforms will also be able to apply and receive licenses under the application process.
Under the provisions of SB 177, a fair 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue (GGR) would be set. Crighton believes this is a competitive percentage, allowing businesses to profit without being exceeding high as other US states have included while introducing legislation.
Observing the current gambling structure in Massachusetts, the two casinos including Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield along with its Plainridge Park racino are operated by Penn National Gaming. Therefore, Penn National/Barstool Sports, BetMGM, and WynnBET would likely be initially granted licenses.
There are two other bills proposed, HB 118 and HB 119 sponsored by State Rep. Bradford Hill. They also call for legalizing sports wagering but with different rules and structures.
Under HB 119, an eight-person commission to research online and mobile sportsbooks would be called on with appointees from Governor Charlie Baker, House and Senate committee members, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). Both HB 118 & 119 bills are identical except for the breakdown of where tax revenue will be appropriated.
If either or both bills come to pass, the research committee would need to begin working within 30 days. Four months would be necessary to study the effects of mobile sportsbooks relating to Massachusetts extending the timeline of when an actual industry could launch.
The House bills and the Senate bill currently on the table area all expected to get ample time on the floor within the Massachusetts Legislature as the 2021 session is underway and adjourns on December 31. The main concern is the continued passage of time, allowing for other nearby states and illegal sources to gain an advantage.
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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