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House Passes Massachusetts Sports Betting Legislation

Bill That Would Allow Both Online And Retail Sports Betting Passed Through The Lower Chamber By A 156-3 Margin

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Massachusetts took one of the first legislative steps towards legalizing sports betting in the state as the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow it.

According to the State house News Service, the lower branch of the legislature passed H 3977 by a whopping 156-3 margin. The bill would allow both retail and online sports betting for those older than 21 and physically present in the state of Massachusetts.

Reps. Mike Connolly, Russell Holmes and Erika Uyterhoeven were the only three members to cast a vote against the proposal. All three are members of the Democratic Party.

The legislation would put sports betting under the regulatory oversight of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. It would also grant sports betting licenses to MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbord, Plainridge Park Casino, as well as the two simulcasting facilities so that those properties would be allowed to accept wagers.

Any arena that hosts live horse racing would also be given a sports betting license, but Plainridge Park is currently the only property with live horse races.

On the mobile front, the proposal would allow for between one and three online sportsbooks. Mobile operators would have to apply for a license. All licenses, whether given to a brick-and-mortar or an online sportsbook would cost $5 million. Retail sportsbooks would be taxed on 12.5% of total revenue, while online books would take a 15% hit.

Rep. Jerald Parisella, who is the chairman of the Committee on Economic Development believes that these regulations would generate about $60 million in new annual tax revenue.

The bill will move to the Senate, where the upper chamber is already working on its own version of sports betting legislation. The Senate bill would have slight regulatory differences, like whether to allow betting on in-state collegiate sports. But both bills would allow for both in-person and online wagering.

Last year, the House passed sports betting legislation as part of an economic development package, but its Senate counterparts declined to do the same.

Shortly after that, however, Gov. Charlie Baker came out in favor of it and said that sports betting would help the state recover from the recession brought on by the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns. Baker actually filed his own sports betting proposal, H 70, and has made it clear he will sign whatever makes it to his desk.

With both chambers of the legislature working on proposals, it’s likely the final product would be a compromise of the two bills. If sports betting is legalized by the end of the year, it’s possible that those in Massachusetts could begin wagering in 2022.