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MA amendments double betting tax and add ilottery component


The Massachusetts legislature has amended sports wagering bill put forward last week, adding provisions to legalize online lotteries, but doubling the tax rate for online betting.

Last week, a new economic development package bill was introduced in the state’s legislature, including a section aimed at legalizing sports wagering in the state.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means, H.4879 is designed to enable “partnerships for growth” in Massachusetts, setting out a host of proposed measures including the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act, which would legalize online, mobile and land-based sports betting in the state.

A series of new amendments to the bill have been consolidated and adopted by the House in a 157-1 vote, including an amendment to also legalize online lottery sales.

The online lottery amendment would also allow the state Lottery Commission to “implement promotional activities” to encourage the purchase of lottery tickets, such as offering prepaid gift cards. In addition, the Commission will carry out a study to ascertain any defects in the state lottery law and recommend changes.

Players would have the option to self-exclude from online lottery and players must be able to set maximum deposit and spending limits. Operation and administration costs in running the online lottery product may not exceed 15% of ticket sale revenue.

While the initial bill proposed a 15% GGR tax rate for sports betting, the amendments doubled this rate to 30%. Other amendments proposed raising the tax rate to 50% of GGR, though the consolidated amendments ultimately opted for the 30% rate.

In addition, the amendments allow Category 2 licenses, which cover betting at a racetrack within the state, to also offer a mobile betting product.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission would also be required under the amendments to create a report on a casino in “Region C”, the Southeast region of the state. While this was facilitated by the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, the project has stalled in recent years over concerns about competition from neighbouring states such as Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The state lottery will also be permitted to offer online fantasy sports under the new rules.

H.4879 is currently awaiting a third reading in the House of Representatives, and if passed would then move to the state Senate.

Last week, it was revealed that the Massachusetts State Lottery suffered a year-on-year decline in revenue and net profit for the 2020 fiscal year, primarily due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Revenue for the 12 months to June 30, 2020, amounted to $5.25bn, a decrease of 4.7% from $5.51bn in the corresponding period in fiscal 2019.