Senate Closes Door For Sports Betting In Massachusetts Budget

Posted on November 18, 2020 - Last Updated on November 19, 2020

Two attempts to add sports betting to the Massachusetts budget failed in the Senate this week.

Sen. Brendan Crighton and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr each introduced amendments to include Massachusetts sports betting in the budget.

Tarr’s amendment was rejected Wednesday night and Crighton’s withdrawn as the Senate completed its $46 billion budget for the fiscal year that started four months ago.

The House also declined to include sports betting in its budget proposal earlier this month.

MA senators speak out in favor of sports betting

While there was no roll call vote on including sports betting in the budget, there was some discussion.

A couple of MA senators spoke out in favor of Massachusetts capturing revenue from sports betting headed to nearby states.

According to the State House News Service, Sen. Patrick O’Connor called sports betting “free money” for the state. And Sen. Marc Pacheco noted that Massachusetts is “losing all of this revenue we are going to need.”

Pacheco added:

“If we don’t do it in this bill, we should absolutely get to work before we end this year to make sure this is done. I am very concerned that we are going to be missing the boat on this.”

Senate President Karen Spilka was non-committal on if the legislature could still do sports betting before the session ends in early January.

“Right now, the focus is going to be on conference committees, resolving the budget, and COVID. We’ll see though,” she said.

One possible vehicle left for MA sports betting

Massachusetts lawmakers are still discussing inclusion of sports betting legalization in the economic development bill.

The House included sports wagering in its economic development plan back in July. But the Senate opted not to include sports betting, rejecting Crighton’s amendment to add it.

Negotiations between chamber leaders on the economic development bill are taking place behind closed doors. Sports betting’s hope to make the package remains unclear.

MA legislature fails to heed governor’s call

Gov. Charlie Baker had asked the legislature to include sports betting implementation language in the budget.

Last month, he took the rare step of refiling his budget proposal from January that includes $35 million in revenue from sports wagering.

Massachusetts was supposed to complete the budget July 31. The coronavirus upended typical budgetary plans, causing the legislature to renew a monthly budget to keep operations running.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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