Even though the sports world is currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, it hasn’t stopped lawmakers in Massachusetts from continuing to pursue a law legalizing sports betting. This isn’t the first time that sports betting has been a topic of discussion in Massachusetts, but it finally appears that the state is serious about legalizing the growing industry.
Five bills have been introduced over the past five years, but none of them have come up for a vote. Lawmakers now believe that they have a bill that will not only earn support from their peers but will also legalize sports betting in the state.
The major difference this time around is that a bill was able to advance to committee and should advance far enough for state lawmakers to vote on the issue some point in 2020. State lawmakers are currently not meeting to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but they will have to meet at some point.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies was reviewing a sports betting bill right before the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States, and they have agreed to move that bill on to the state legislature. State lawmakers have been in agreement that the state needs to legalize the sports betting industry, and now they have the power to make that a reality.
The House Ways and Means Committee now has the sports betting bill, and they have a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies that it should pass. If the bill does become a law, it is estimated to bring in more than $20 million in revenue per year.
There is a strict deadline of July 31 for this bill to pass, and all lawmakers seem to think that it will pass in advance of the deadline. The coronavirus pandemic could throw a wrinkle in these plans, but lawmakers could host virtual meetings to pass the bill. Governor Charlie Baker has given his support of sports betting legislation and would sign a bill if it ended up on his desk.
The bill that has finally advanced out of committee is H 4559, and it has basically taken the best parts of the other bills proposed and put them all together. H 4559 would allow for the three authorized casinos in the state to offer sports betting if they choose to apply for a license.
The bill also would allow online sports betting in the state, but only five operators would be granted a sports betting license. Horse racing tracks could also apply for a license to offer sports betting if they choose to.
There are currently two resort casinos in the state of Massachusetts that would be the headquarters of sports betting in the state. Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield are the two biggest casinos in the state and would be given the first chance to apply for a license.
DraftKings is also headquartered in Boston, and they would likely be granted one of the online sports betting operator licenses.
Even though there will likely be some changes made before the sports betting bill becomes a law, these factors are likely to be included. Sports betting will be available on all professional and collegiate sporting events.
The licensing fees to offer sports betting will be initially set at $1 million, with a chance to renew those licenses in five years for $500,000. The tax rate is currently proposed to be at 10% for all retail sports betting, with a 12% tax set for sports bets place online.