Massachusetts House Receives Package Of Sports Betting Bills From Joint Committee

Posted on March 3, 2020

The Bay State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies hit a deadline for working on a package of Massachusetts sports betting bills Friday and took action. After nearly two years of study, the Massachusetts House will now have a chance to take action on the packet.

While there is some optimism for quick action on the bills, there is also reason to temper that excitement. One half of the Legislature may be more apt to move them along right now than the other.

What happened to the Massachusetts sports betting bills?

Several of the bills the joint committee had been working on were sent on to the Massachusetts House on Friday. Although the joint committee’s list does not disclose which House committee will take up the bills from here, one state representative is confident it will clear her chamber.

Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante said her hope is to have legal sportsbooks up and running in time for the next NFL season. It’s unclear right now if any of the committees that Ferrante occupies are the recipient of the bills.

The package included the bill filed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker last year, H. 68. It also includes bills proposed by members of both legislative chambers, S. 201 and H. 377.

Along with those are some tangential bills like H. 378 that govern certain aspects of a potential legal framework such as how the state will spend tax revenue from legal wagering. The fate of all those bills is now in the hands of a few members of the Massachusetts House.

While they received the bills as part of a grouping, that doesn’t dictate how they have to be treated going forward. The House committee is free to parcel them out and amend, approve or vote them down individually.

That may be ideal, as a matter of fact. Not everyone is on board with the proposals right now.

Massachusetts Senate might be a more challenging landscape

The same¬†Boston Globe report that presented Ferrante’s optimism also presents caution from one member of the joint committee, Sen. Eric Lesser.

Lesser said members of his chamber were not ready to commit to approving the bills as they stood when passed on to the House committee. His comments present a gloomier fate.

Last Friday was the last day the joint committee could spend working on the bills. Sending them on to the House committee could merely be relaying them to their deaths as opposed to putting them on a fast-track.

Lesser didn’t state any negative sentiments about the bills, however. His comments merely state that the Senate won’t rubber-stamp anything that emerges out of the House on this matter.

Legislators have until the end of the session in July to get a bill to Baker’s desk. It’s likely he would approve such a measure, as he has arguably been the biggest proponent of sports betting legalization in his state.

If Ferrante is correct, this fall could represent the first time that Massachusetts residents can legally wager on their beloved New England Patriots. Right now whether that happens is in the hands of her colleagues.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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