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MA Senate removes betting from economic development bill


Massachusetts’ Senate has removed language to regulate sports betting from an economic development omnibus bill, potentially dashing hopes for legalization in 2020.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means, H.4879 was put forward as an act designed to enable “partnerships for growth” in the state, setting out a host of proposed measures.

Among these was a section on sports betting, under which wagering in-person, on mobile and online would have been permitted in the state.

Though the House of Representatives cleared an amended version of the bill, the Senate yesterday (July 29) voted to replace the renumbered H.4887 with amendment S.2842, which removed the section on sports betting, as well as other measures.

Several amendments were put forward by members of the Senate in an effort to keep sports betting as part of the bill, including by Senator Bruce Tarr, but this was rejected by the Senate. Two other amendments were withdrawn before going to a vote.

As such, amendment S.2842 was passed unanimously, without any language related to legal sports betting. It will return to the House for concurrence, but if any further changes were to be made, it would then return to the Senate before the bill can progress forward to the Governor.

However, Massachusetts’ current legislative session is set to end tomorrow (July 31) and the House and Senate must reach an agreement before then in order for the bill to pass this year.

H.4879 had set out plans to legalize in-person, online and mobile sports betting, with three licenses available. A Category 1 license would have covered online, mobile and in-person sports betting; Category 2 in-person betting at racetracks; and Category 3 sports betting via a mobile application or online.

Licenses would have cost $250,000 and run for a period of five years, after which the holder would have had to pay $100,000 to renew the permit for another five years.

License-holders would have needed to pay a fee based on the amount of wagers taken on sports events at venues inside Massachusetts. This was set at a rate of 1% of adjusted gross sports wagering receipts, reduced to 0.25% at a later date.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which would have been established under the new Act, would have responsibility for awarding licenses to operators.

Operators were initially faced with a tax rate of 15% of adjusted gross sports wagering receipts, but this was increased to 30% as one of a host of amendments approved by the House.

Other amendments – approved by a vote of 157-1 – included a measure to also legalize online lottery sales. This amendment would have also allowed the state Lottery Commission to “implement promotional activities” to encourage sales of lottery tickets. These too were removed in the Senate.

Players would have been able to self-exclude from online lottery, as well as set maximum deposit and spending limits.