House Speaker Ron Mariano really wants Massachusetts to get sports betting legislation to the finish line this session.
Mariano was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Government Affairs Forum of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
He spent five of his 45 minutes talking about sports betting. He only brought up two issues before sports betting: climate change and education.
PlayMA obtained a video of Mariano’s speech. He started off by saying:
“Last July, the House again passed legislation for the second or third time authorizing sports betting and bringing that revenue to benefit Massachusetts residents. The House bill will legalize professional and collegiate sports betting to bring in $60 million in annual tax revenue in addition to collecting up to $70 to $80 million in licensing fees that must be renewed every five years. This is revenue that could then be used to bolster workforce and youth development.”
Economic development potential of MA sports betting
Speaking to business leaders, Mariano focused his comments on the financial impact legalized sports betting could have in the state.
While additional revenue sources don’t seem as important during a time of budgetary surplus, Mariano warned that won’t last forever.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that good fiscal times don’t last and that we can’t always expect strong revenue returns or more aid from the federal government,” Mariano said. “That’s why it’s absolutely critical for the Legislature to continue to look for new, smart ways to develop more revenue for the commonwealth. Revenue that can be reinvested to spur the economic development.”
With DraftKings headquartered in Massachusetts, it’s easy to see the impact legalizing sports betting could have in the commonwealth.
“The reality is legalizing sports betting wouldn’t just bring vital revenue to the commonwealth, it would also create jobs,” Mariano said. “Located in Boston’s Back Bay, DraftKings employs well over 1,000 residents of the commonwealth and it continues to grow.”
Massachusetts residents betting in border states
Without legal sports betting within the commonwealth, many Massachusetts residents are placing sports betting in neighboring states.
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York all have regulated sports betting.
“In the vast majority of states, they have fully embraced this new industry and the economic benefits they bring to their residents,” Mariano said.
Mariano cited data from DraftKings that 35% of all Celtics playoff bets made in New Hampshire were from Massachusetts residents.
Importance of allowing betting on college sports
Mariano added that a similar trend occurred during March Madness, with 28% of New Hampshire bets coming from Massachusetts residents. That could continue if the Legislature chooses not to include college sports.
Mariano has long spoken about the need for Massachusetts to regulate betting on college sports.
“That’s why I’ve consistently advocated for the legalization of both professional and collegiate sports betting, and it’s why the House legislation passed last year does just that,” Mariano said. “If the Legislature only acts to legalize gaming on professional sports, we will be leaving a significant portion of the industry at the hands of the black market.”
The issue represents perhaps the biggest difference between the House and Senate bills. The House allows for college betting, while prohibiting individual college player props. The Senate disallows betting on college sports.
Hope for conference committee
Mariano’s comments bode well for Massachusetts’ chances to come out of the sports betting conference committee with an agreement.
Last week, Mariano appointed Reps. Jerry Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian as conferees. Senate President Karen Spilka added Sens. Michael Rodrigues, Eric Lesser and Patrick O’Connor.
The conference committee on H 3993 is expected to take until near the July 31 deadline to reach consensus on a conference report.
Mariano compared the situation with his time on the conference committee to legalize recreational marijuana.
“The goals are essentially the same, bring in a market that already exists on to the book and end the black market, and generate revenue for important state investments,” Mariano said.