Gov. Baker Says Massachusetts Sports Betting Must Wait

Written By Martin Derbyshire on June 18, 2018 - Last Updated on August 24, 2023
cover of 2019 calendar

Don’t expect Massachusetts to legalize sports betting until at least 2019. Particularly if Gov. Charlie Baker has anything to say about it.

The May 14 Supreme Court decision to repeal a federal ban on sports gambling gave all 50 states the right to legalize sports betting inside their borders.

In the first week of June, Delaware and New Jersey became the first two state’s outside of Nevada to launch full-fledged legal and regulated sports betting.

There are also a handful of other states poised to do the same after previously passing sports betting legislation pending a change in federal law.

Massachusetts is not one of them and state lawmakers appear to be in no hurry to pass any kind of sports betting legislation.

Too much on the state’s plate

Baker told the Boston Herald there’s already too much on state legislators agendas to think sports betting can be dealt with right now:

“I think it would be very hard for us to go from zero to 100 mph in the course of 40 days when there’s so much other stuff in front of the Legislature. I do know we are meeting with a lot of the professional sports organizations and a lot of the knowledgeable people in this space, and I fully expect the Legislature will do the same thing.”

Baker did say lawmakers would likely be working to write a sports betting bill over the next few months. The goal would be to handle it in the first legislative session in 2019:

“I believe this is an issue we ought to take up, if we happen to be around, in January as part of the next session, because clearly this is going to be something that every state is going to have to take a good hard look at.”

Work underway on 2019 betting bill

State Rep. Joseph Wagner, who chairs of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies is expected to lead House on the issue. He is on record that work has already begun on a sports betting bill.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo already said it won’t come up before this latest legislative session ends next month.

However, James Chisholm, a spokesman for Boston-based daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings, told the Boston Herald it makes sense to do the work on the bill now. Plus, even if its not going to be dealt with immediately, DraftKings Sportsbook MA is here to help:

“If something isn’t going to be passed by the end of this session, there’s no reason to wait until next year to do the work. Certainly there’s reason to wait until next July to pass something. There’s lots of work that can be done now to set Massachusetts up.”

DFS and sports betting

Massachusetts legislators passed a law regulating daily fantasy sports in 2016. Under the current agreement, fantasy sports operators aren’t paying any special taxes or fees to the state. However, that deal expires later this year. The state and DFS operators are in the process of renegotiating.

In the meantime, DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook, the other top site in the daily fantasy sports industry, have both made inroads into New Jersey’s new sports betting industry. Now it appears DraftKings wants in Massachusetts sports betting as well.

The Boston Herald also says lobbyists representing major sports leagues like the NBA, MLB and PGA have descended upon the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill.

Major sports leagues want a piece

Lobbyist Steven Panagiotakos is hoping to convince state lawmakers the leagues deserves a piece of any Massachusetts sports betting pie:

“(The leagues are) looking for a royalty fee. (Their) game(s) (are) going to be used as the basis for the bets. They’re also looking for their data. The official data of the league would be used. They think there will be more pressure on them to expend more resources on oversight of the game.”

Major sports leagues have been pushing for integrity fees like this across the country. So far they have found little success. The fee has never existed in Nevada. Plus, Delaware and New Jersey have now launched sports betting operations without it.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Expanded Gaming Act in 2011. This allowed Penn National Gaming to open up the the state’s first casino in 2015.

It also allowed two competitors for the Plainridge Park Casino to enter the market. The $950 million MGM Springfield is scheduled to open on Aug. 24, 2018. Additionally, the $2.4 billion Encore Boston Harbor (formerly Wynn Boston Harbor) is scheduled to open in 2019.

Representatives from all three have said they’d like to see the state legalize sports betting. Plus, they would consider opening up sportsbooks at the casinos.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years experience in the world of poker and gambling. He contributes to a number of publications dealing with the US regulated online gambling market. He has traveled the globe working as an editor, producer, and writer as well as interviewing major players in the gaming world.

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