The Massachusetts Senate is finally ready to move on sports betting, though it will only begin a prolonged negotiation with the House. The Senate Ways and Means Committee finally advanced sports betting legislation late Friday.
Senators will discuss HB 3993 Thursday on the Senate floor. Legislative sources tell PlayMA that the Senate will pass the bill Thursday, likely with amendments.
Before advancing the bill, the Ways and Means Committee essentially subbed in language from Sen. Eric Lesser’s SB 269.
The House passed the bill crafted by the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee in June.
Senate passage of sports betting legislation would be a long-awaited key step toward legalization in Massachusetts. In addition to the passage last year, the House included sports betting in an economic development bill in 2020 only to have it removed during conference committee negotiations with the Senate.
Many differences with House bill
Major differences need sorting out between the House and Senate proposals. Some might be addressed in amendments on the Senate floor. But most will go to a conference committee following inevitable House non-concurrence.
Key differences between the House and Senate bill include:
- The Senate bill does not include betting on collegiate sports. House Speaker Ronald Mario previously said that would be a dealbreaker for the House.
- Tax rates are much higher in the Senate bill. The Senate proposes 35% on mobile bets and 20% on in-person wagers. In the House, those rates are 15% and 12.5%.
- The Senate bill allows nine sports betting licenses, one for each casino and six untethered mobile operators. The House bill allows each casino to have three skins, two horse racetracks to have one, and unlimited untethered mobile licenses.
- Sports betting licensees pay an initial $5 million renewable every five years for another $5 million in the Senate bill.
Article showed support for sports betting in MA Senate
Last month, the State House News Service reported that at least 60% of Massachusetts senators support sports wagering legalization.
There are 40 members of the Massachusetts Senate, making 21 votes needed to pass legislation. The comprehensive article noted support from 24 senators, possibly helping spark action.
If the Senate passes legislation Thursday, it gives the chambers plenty of time to work out differences between their bills. The Massachusetts regular legislative session runs through July 31.