Lawmakers Delay Massachusetts Legal Sports Betting Decision

Sports betting in Massachusetts looks like it will have to wait until 2021 for legalization after the state’s lawmakers have delayed passage of amendment legalizing sports wagering.

Last week, Amendment 337, calling for state wide online and mobile sports betting in Massachusetts was offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and it was firmly rejected by opposing parties.

At first glance, the amendment came into view as an identical copy of earlier drafts and propositions, one that would permit land-based sports betting at casinos and racetracks, the inclusion of detailed infrastructure and set a tax rate for sports wagering. However, with rejection of this amendment, Massachusetts lawmakers appear set on procrastinating on legalizing sports wagering even as many of their state neighbors legalize.

There is already state wide online sports betting available to the north in New Hampshire and to the south in Rhode Island. Lawmakers further south in New York and Connecticut also appear to have stalled, similar to Massachusetts.

With the decision, that seems to be the last opportunity finished for legalizing sports betting in the Bay State for 2020 after the amendment was passed over without even a roll call vote.

The last possible chance for Massachusetts sports betting in 2020 seems unlikely

Another chance for sports betting in Massachusetts lies in different economic development bill under consideration that could possibly be a pathway for legal sports betting, however, that also seems like an outside chance this year. The state’s legislators could possibly set up a stand-alone sports betting legislation bill, however, that appears highly unlikely as 2020 rapidly comes to a close.

With that, despite heavy backing from Republican Governor Charlie Baker and many members of the Democratic-controlled General Court, legal sports betting seems closed for 2020, but certain starter for debate in 2021.

As Massachusetts has a young, affluent, tech-savvy population and many of the nation’s most iconic sports franchises like the New England Patriots, and the Boston Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins, legal sports betting appears inevitable. Gaming industry stakeholders believe Massachusetts could eventually be one of the nation’s most lucrative per capita sports betting revenue markets.

What Now for Massachusetts Sports Betting?

Legislators will now have to get creative in coming up with a pathway to get a sports betting bill passed. There is wide cross-party bipartisanship for legal sports wagering; however, the devil is in the detail for the Massachusetts’ lawmakers.

As discussed, Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker, is an open backer for sports betting and would like to have it passed as soon as possible to have much-needed revenue in the state budget. Although the state has been discussing legalizing sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court made it possible in 2018, Massachusetts has been stumbling over its feet to find a way to legalize it.

However, there is cause for optimism. There were some details that the Senate Amendment that could eventually save sports betting in Massachusetts from becoming a disaster.
Some of the language used in the bill seemed to suggest that a total of only five sports betting licenses could be awarded to operators, giving three of them to land-based sportsbooks leaving only two licenses for online sportsbooks like FanDuelBetMGM and 888Sport to fight it out for.

Revenue sharing was included as a feature of the proposed bill and it is a revolutionary proposal. Such a move could make Massachusetts the first state to do something radical like this with its sports betting industry.

Watch this space for updates from the early months of 2021 as there is a great chance that it could be in the final bill as Massachusetts legislative session gets back into full swing from January onwards.

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