With the Super Bowl officially behind us, Massachusetts still doesn’t have a piece of the sports betting pie. Local businesses and lawmakers are pushing again for Massachusetts sports betting to be legalized by next year.
Local business owners want in on legal sports betting
Bill Stetson is the owner of the Rumbleseat Bar and Grille in Chicopee. He endorsed State Senator Adam Gomez’s sports betting bill, along with over 100 other bar and restaurant owners in the state.
Senator Gomez’s bill would allow these businesses to offer customers the use of kiosks to place sports bets. Many establishments have suffered the loss of business amid COVID and the kiosks would help boost their profits.
When asked about the sports betting bill, Stetson was concerned about the sports betting freedom only being offered to the Massachusetts casinos.
“It just matters whether the people that make the final decision and final vote leave out the 20,000 small businesses, mostly family-owned, and cater to 3 casinos,” he said.
Stetson points out that casinos have been able to offer other gambling freedoms and local businesses should have similar opportunities.
“Just like we give the casinos the opportunity to have Keno and lottery,” he said, “we should have the opportunity to have sports gambling.”
What are local lawmakers doing to push sports wagering in MA?
Late last year, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ordered a sports betting study to be performed by the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA).
The hope is that the study will sway the state’s senate as to the benefits of sports wagering in Massachusetts. The Commission hopes that the study will be finalized in time for the end of the state’s fiscal year in June 2022.
One of the state’s biggest supporters of legal sports betting is Sen. Eric Lesser. He recently announced his plan to run for Lieutenant Governor in this November’s gubernatorial election.
A senator of the people
Lesser has actually introduced his own sports wagering bills multiple times. Previous bills have passed almost unanimously in the state’s House, but the Senate has been inactive in passing sports betting laws in MA.
Senator Lesser’s most recent attempt is Bill S.269, “An Act to Establish Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth.” He hopes to have sports betting legalized in Massachusetts this year.
His new bill passed from the House to the Senate in July 2021. No movement has yet occurred passing the bill in the state Senate, but Lesser remains optimistic.
“Our hope is that we can get this done and get this reconciled sooner rather than later,” Lesser said. “But unfortunately, at this time, there’s not a tight timeline on it,” said Senator Lesser.
Previous versions of sports betting bills have been struck down because of their inclusion of legal wagers on college sports. The state has also deliberated on how and where bettors should be able to place wagers.
Lesser’s new bill only includes legal wagers on professional sports and not college sports. He also wants to make sure to include local businesses in any sports betting legislation.
“One of the purposes of slowing this down,” he explained, “is to try to bring all the stakeholders together and try to make sure, as much as possible, we’re including those local voices.”
How the state could benefit from legal sports betting in Massachusetts
The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018. Since then, 30 states have legalized wagering.
Several of those states are Massachusetts neighbors. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and New York all have legal sports betting in place.
Massachusetts residents who want to place sports wagers need only to travel across state lines to do so. This means Massachusetts is losing state tax revenue to its neighboring states.
Among those states, New Jersey has the highest number of sports wagers taken outside of the state of Nevada. In 2021, the state of New Jersey collected over $95 million in sports betting tax revenue.
The new Massachusetts sports betting bill includes a breakdown of what the state would earn in revenue from sports betting. Taxes are collectable in the amount of:
- 15% on mobile sports bets
- 5% on in-person sports bets
Early tax revenue estimations for Massachusetts sports betting include $60 million in tax revenue. Furthermore, an extra $80 million from license renewal fees is attainable every five years.
Tax revenue from sports wagering in the state is distributable to educational betterment, public health, workforce development, and economic programs.
Only time will tell whether the dream of legal sports betting in Massachusetts will become a reality.
With data from the sports betting study as well as pushes from local business owners, the hope is that the state senate will pass the sports wagering bill this year.