Massachusetts state representatives approve bill to legalize sports betting

After a lengthy back and forth battle of bringing sports betting to Massachusetts, the House finally approved a bill on Thursday in hopes to get it all moving and established as quickly as possible. However, the question of betting on college sports is yet to reach a final decision between the House and the Senate. Professional sports, esports, video games, and car racing will be available for anyone over 21 if all goes well. 

Massachusetts state representatives approve bill to legalize sports betting
Boston, MA. Image: Pixabay.com

Massachusetts sports lovers are rejoicing as they are now inching closer to enjoying in-person betting in casino facilities, and online mobile app Sportsbooks. The decision was finally announced in late July 2021 as the House approved a bill that would allow wagers on professional sports, esports, car racing, and video games available at legal gambling facilities, and mobile apps in the Sate. Thursday’s 153-3 vote has betters overjoyed as this step in the right direction came right in time before the famous NFL Super Bowl event. 

State's officials had debated this topic since 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the nearly nationwide prohibition on sports wagering was unconstitutional. It’s safe to say that this ongoing discourse is a little overdue, as the waiting game caused the state to miss out on years of considerable financial opportunities. Regardless, it is almost finished, and Massachusetts is bound to see some exciting changes in the following years. 

The Senate, on the other hand, is not too thrilled about legalizing sports betting, but it’s evident that all those who ruled in favor of it are seeing this as an opportunity for people to have an extra dose of genuine entertainment. Besides, residents of MA have been traveling to nearby locations to partake in sports betting anyway, so bringing this genre of gambling home will have excellent benefits in terms of the state’s economy. 

"I represent a district which borders New Hampshire...In Haverhill, you can literally walk across the border into New Hampshire and place a bet. I know that my constituents who partake in sports wagering would rather place these bets in their homes and in their own state and would rather have any revenue collected going towards benefiting their home state of Massachusetts." said Rep. Andy Vargas, of Haverhill. 

The majority of representatives backs this obvious factor, and pushing against it makes absolutely no sense at this point. Representative Jerald Parisella, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development, also pitched her two cents in during Thursday’s vote, 

"Some may say that this is bringing sports betting to Massachusetts. The fact is that our Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports. They're either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it's legal, or they're also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet, or they're also going to a bookie...But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light and makes it legal in Massachusetts." 

Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York have been profiting from sports bets made by Massachusetts residents for years. So it’s about time the state takes advantage of expanding the industry that is already expected to bring massive success to casinos, offer additional job opportunities, and attract future visitors. However, it’s not all about the money. Some representatives believe that this is a chance for people to simply have a good time. 

"Most importantly, it's just fun. People are allowed to have fun...And sports betting is fun", Rep. Dan Cahill, of Lynn, also commented on Thursday's vote. 

Despite the excitement, there is still a big question that lingers: will college sports be included as one of the legalized betting categories? This decision is a definite game-changer since college sports are a hit all across the united states. Simply put - people love it, and it's a massive hit in the gambling industry. It’s also expected that the lack of college sports betting would put a significant dent in revenue, which would miss out on $25 - $35 million annually. Even the House Speaker Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, stated that excluding collegiate betting from the legalized genres would "probably would be" a deal-breaker.

"I find myself having a tough time trying to justify going through all of this to not include probably the main driver of betting in the commonwealth," he added. 

We may see a concrete decision on college sports betting in the following weeks. But for now, it’s best to focus on the details of what sports betting would entail for both operators and participants. 

This is what the HB3974 is known to include:

  • Three different sports betting licenses.
  • Category 1 – in-person wagering and online wagering.
  • Category 2 – horse or greyhound tracks.
  • The third category will be for other only sports betting operators approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
  • Tax Rate of 12.5% for in-person betting.
  • 15% tax for online sports betting.
  • $100K application fee.
  • $5M license fee for five years.
  • $5M to renew every five years.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that 12.5% tax will be applied to in-person sports bets, and mobile betting will come at a slightly greater cost of 15% tax. The only reason for the difference in numbers are the fees gambling facilities are already stuck paying. However, that shouldn’t affect mobile casino operators as at least 80% of future sports bets are expected to be made online. 

The taxes are estimated to bring in as much as $60M in revenue, plus $80M in initial licensing fees, that are to be renewed every five years. The great news is that this money will be used to reform cities and towns in MA and distributed among education and public health programs. 

MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Park Casino would have an opportunity to obtain licenses to conduct in-person wagers, as long as they operate in accordance with the rules and requirements of the Gaming Commission. The said facilities will be permitted to run between one and three mobile sports betting platforms. 

Operators with exclusively mobile gambling will have to pay a somewhat painful fee of $5M for the same license fees, which will pale in comparison to future revenue. 

"We estimate if all those licenses go out, the commonwealth could get $70 million to $80 million just in licensing fees...I believe a conservative estimate is that we'll raise about $60 million annually from the taxes on the sports betting...And as it gets matured, we believe that those numbers could rise," Rep. Parisella stated Thursday.

As for  the participants, the following betting mobile apps are expected to be a massive hit:

  • DraftKings Sportsbook
  • FanDuel Sportsbook
  • PointsBet
  • FOX Bet Sportsbook
  • William Hill Sportsbook
  • BetMGM Sportsbook
  • Barstool Sportsbook
  • BetRivers

The Sportsbook options would offer opportunities to bet on Auto Racing, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Football, Golf, Hockey, Lacrosse, Mixed Martial Arts, Olympics, Soccer, Tennis, Rugby, Track, and more. In short words, most world-famous sports are included on the list.  

Another big factor to consider, is that credit cards would be excluded from available payment options. Aside from that, both; the selection of potential platforms and sports genres is outstanding. However, many are curious about what type of bets will be included in the Sportsbooks. The great news is that the range is quite generous. 

Here are the main ones:

  • Moneylines
  • Totals
  • Spreads
  • Parlays and Teasers
  • Player Props
  • Game Props
  • Futures Betting
  • Live Betting
  • Round Robins

 At this point it’s fingers crossed in hopes for the final steps to be completed as soon as possible.  Executive Director Karen Wells expressed that the agency is working hard to make it all happen quickly and efficiently,

"We recognize that there is a significant interest in getting this going. I hear these representatives and senators talking about the finances and the money to the commonwealth, so we recognize there's a public interest in us getting going as soon as we can."

With the way things are going, it’s doubtful that sports betting legalization will flop, and it’s more than likely that we will witness Massachusetts join 30 states that have already authorized gamblers to place legal bets in the following weeks. 

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