Massachusetts Lawmakers File New Sports Betting Bill, Debate Slated for Thursday


Sports betting in Massachusetts appears to be wicked close to reality – maybe. Two state House members filed a bipartisan bill Monday. Media reports indicate the bill could go before the chamber on Thursday.

Massachusetts sports bettingMassachusetts sports betting
Boston’s historic Massachusetts State House has been home to the state legislature for more than 220 years. On Thursday, House lawmakers are expected to debate a bill that would legalize sports betting. (Image: King of Hearts/Wikimedia Commons)

House Bill 3974, sponsored by state Reps. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk), establishes three types of sports betting licenses – one for casinos, one for racetracks, and one for mobile operators. The legislation combines aspects of several previously filed measures.

The measure also calls for a study to determine if allowing kiosks at bars and restaurants would be feasible.

It’s also possible lawmakers may look to allow the state’s major league franchises to get in on the action. The Boston Herald reported Monday some lawmakers are considering an amendment that would establish retail sportsbooks. These would be next to or within a half-mile of a major sporting venue, such as Fenway Park and the TD Garden in Boston and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Recently, some of the sports teams have asked us about in-stadium betting, and it’s something to look at,” said state Rep. Jerald Parisella (D-Beverly) to The Boston Herald. “It is sort of the newer trend.”

The District of Columbia and Illinois already have legislation allowing for teams to hold licenses. Ohio lawmakers are considering it in their bill as well.

The legislature’s website showed the Ways and Means Committee adopted an amended version on Wednesday. But details of that amended bill were not immediately known.

Massachusetts Tries to Catch Up

As neighboring states such as Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and even New York have legalized sports betting, Massachusetts has stayed on the sidelines, letting previous bills languish on Beacon Hill. The House passed an economic development bill last year that included wagering legislation. However, it died in the Senate.

Since then, not only has a bevy of bills been filed in the General Court this session, but another neighboring state, Connecticut, finally reached an agreement to legalize sports betting. That may be prompting the press by some lawmakers to get a bill to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has included funding from sports betting in his past three budgets.

Earlier this year, the state’s Senate president said a Massachusetts sports betting bill should serve as a model for other states.

H.3974 would generate revenue for the state by taxing brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at 12 .5 percent of adjusted gross receipts (AGR). Online operators would be levied a 15 percent AGR tax.

Operators would be able to deduct promotional credits from their liability.

The bill calls for 40 percent of the revenue to go to the state’s Workforce Investment Trust Fund. That money would go toward grants to boost workforce development programs for low-income communities and at-risk youth and young adults. Another 20 percent will go to the Youth Development and Achievement Fund for college aid programs and youth extracurricular activities.

The state’s Gaming Local Aid fund gets 30 percent of the revenue, and 9 percent will be directed toward problem gaming. The final 1 percent would go to a Players’ Benevolence Fund, which would contribute to charitable causes backed by current and former pro athletes or their foundations.

More Sports Betting Bill Details

Under the bill, casinos would be allowed to partner with up to three mobile operators, provided those operators received an online license. Racetracks would be allowed one skin with the same contingent.

Licensees would pay $5 million to operate for five years, with renewals also costing $5 million.

Sports leagues and governing bodies would have the option of requesting sportsbooks use official league data to grade “Tier 2” bets, which would include in-game and player prop betting. It does require, though, that the data feed be available at a “commercially reasonable” cost.

The bill also allows for betting on in-state college games, but it prohibits prop bets on individual student-athletes.

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