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Massachusetts House and Senate agree on sports betting bill in final hours


A committee of members of the Massachusetts state House and Senate has agreed on a sports betting bill with only hours remaining in the state’s legislative session.

Each of the state’s two legislative chambers passed a sports betting bill, but with drastic differences. 

The House had passed a bill in July 2021 in line with other US sports betting bills, featuring a 12.5% tax rate, a $5.0m licence fee and little product or marketing restrictions. 

However, the Senate’s version of the bill included more restrictions, including a ban on many forms of marketing such as promotional bets. The bill would also ban marketing during a live sporting event and would only allow online marketing if 85% of the audience “is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older”.

Betting on college sports would also not be permitted in the Senate bill. Meanwhile, online sports betting would be taxed at 35% of revenue and retail sports betting at 20%.

Due to the differences between the two bills, the legislature set up the Sports Betting Conference Committee, with members from both houses coming together to agree a compromise bill.

However, with the clock winding down to the end of the legislative session on 31 July, no agreement had been reached on the bill. It was given a late lifeline as the legislative session was extended into the morning of 1 August.

In the final hours of the session, House Speaker Ron Mariano revealed that an agreement had been reached.

“I am proud to announce that the Sports Betting Conference Committee has reached an agreement on legislation that will legalize wagering on professional and collegiate sports in Massachusetts, bringing the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to MA,” Mariano said.

The new bill will allow for any operator of a land-based casino or racetrack in the state to have a licence, as well as an additional 7 online-only licences. These will carry a $5m licence fee.

Betting on college sports will be permitted, with the exception of matches involving in-state teams.

Online betting will be taxed at 20% and retail at 15%.

Marketing, meanwhile, will not face the restrictions that would have been imposed by the Senate bill.