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Massachusetts House clears amended sports betting bill


The Massachusetts House of Representatives has voted to approve an economic development package bill that includes a section to legalize sports betting in the state.

The House yesterday (July 28) voted 156-3 in favour of H.4879, which, after being introduced last week, will now move forward to the state Senate.

Should the Senate make any further amendments to the bill, these would then need to be approved by the House by Friday (July 31), when the current Massachusetts legislative session is due to conclude.

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

Key measures in the wagering bill include establishing three licenses: Category 1 for online, mobile and in-person sports betting; Category 2 covering in-person betting at racetracks; and Category 3 for sports betting through an approved mobile application or online.

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

License-holders would also need to pay a fee based on the amount of bets taken on sports events that take place at venues inside Massachusetts. This would be 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 be established under the new Act, would have responsibility for awarding licenses to operators.

In terms of taxation, the original bill stated that operators would be required to pay at a rate of 15% of their adjusted gross sports wagering receipts. However, this was increased to 30% as one of a host of amendments approved this week.

Other amendments – approved by a vote of 157-1 – included a measure to also legalize online lottery sales. This 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.

Players would be able to self-exclude from online lottery, and would 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.

The amendments also allow Category 2 licensees – racetracks –  to also offer a mobile betting product, while the state lottery would be permitted to run online fantasy sports under the new rules.