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An important Massachusetts joint committee has approved a sports betting bill, giving the measure momentum toward passage and the possibility of legal wagering in the state by the beginning of the NFL season.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies moved the legislation to an important House committee for consideration, but with a small stipulation, as the senators in the group held their vote in order to alter the measure later in the process.
“After reviewing all the data, after looking at all the pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that we could put a bill out that was in the best interest of the taxpayers… And the consumers of the Commonwealth,” said state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante.
Ferrante, a Democrat from Gloucester, is the co-chairwoman of the joint committee that has overseen the research into the viability of the bill.
The final bill currently being considered would allow betting on professional and collegiate sports for individuals over the age of 21. It would also set a tax of 10 percent on operators that take in-person bets and a 12 percent tax from online bets.
For daily fantasy winnings, the state has set a concurrent 12 percent tax, the same rate as mobile bets.
Rep. Ferrante’s committee has a set a range of revenue from $20 million to $25 million annually from tax revenue generated from sports betting. The hope from the committee is that the bill moves quickly through the legislative process with a target date to open sports betting to customers around the start of the 2020 NFL season in September.
With the legislative session ending in July, lawmakers will have their work cut out for them to hustle the bill through the expected alterations that the state Senate will request. The other committee co-chairman, Senator Eric P. Lesser, told the Boston Globe that the senators held their vote because they were not ready to commit to the language of the bill at this point in time.
Lesser did appear hopeful, telling the newspaper, “We want to keep the process moving, and we are in active conversations with them. No one has said no to anything… The Senate will consider it if or when something is sent back from the house.”
Attempts to expand betting in the state in the past several years have failed due to the lack of support from senators. Even with the passage of the bill out of the joint committee, some senators that have previously rejected a betting expansion said they would give a bill from the House its due diligence.
The bill would give the state’s two casinos and the single slots parlor, the ability to apply for a betting license for $1 million in introductory fees. The measure also allows the permittance of five online operators to gain licenses with the same fee.
Casino leadership and executives at daily fantasy operators, such as DraftKings, are in unison that the bill would be a positive step for the state and the gaming industry.
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