Massachusetts Senate Passes Budget Without Sports Betting, Multiple Bills Remain

Written By Martin Harris on May 28, 2021
While most of New England has legalized sports betting or appears close to doing so, Mass. lawmakers have passed up a chance to follow suit.

While most of New England either has legalized sports betting or appears close to doing so, Massachusetts lawmakers have once again passed up a chance to follow suit.

Much as the state House left sports betting out of the state budget a month ago, this week the Senate similarly chose to jettison sports betting before passing its version of the bill.

That means lawmakers will likely need to pass a standalone bill for Massachusetts to legalize sports betting this year. There is still hope for proponents, however, as numerous bills have been filed with more than seven months remaining in the current legislative session.

Sports betting amendments rejected, many bills still in play

On Thursday, Massachusetts senators concluded three days of debate by passing a $47.72 billion budget. The Senate’s proposed budget is larger than the House’s, though added no new taxes and “punted off major policy changes including action on sports betting,” reports the Boston Herald.

The next step is for both chambers to negotiate their way to common ground in order to jointly pass a budget.

Among the rejected amendments was Sen. Bruce Tarr‘s to legalize both retail and online sports betting. Tarr’s proposal would have taxed retail sports betting revenue at 10% and online revenue at 12.5%. It was a familiar story for Tarr whose sports betting proposal failed last year as well.

Another amendment from Sen. Paul Feeney was also rejected along with a host of other bills. Feeney’s proposal would have taxed retail sports betting at 14% and mobile at 18%. While Tarr proposed prohibiting any wagering on college sports, Feeney included college sports betting while excluding betting on Massachusetts schools.

Meanwhile more than 20 sports betting bills have been filed this session, including ones from both Sens. Tarr and Feeney. The bills propose a range of tax rates, different stances on college sports betting, and a variety of suggestions regarding the number of available licenses and who could apply for them.

Massachusetts on sports betting sidelines while nearby states forge ahead

Four other New England states either have legal sports betting or are well on their way to doing so.

Rhode Island opened its first legal retail sportsbooks in late 2018 and added mobile the following year. New Hampshire has also made sports betting legal with a DraftKings-powered online sportsbook launching statewide in Jan. 2020 and its first retail sportsbook opening last August.

Unlike Massachusetts, New York lawmakers did include sports betting in their latest budget. While many details remain unsettled, expectations are NY sports betting could go live in time for the 2021 NFL season.

Meanwhile Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont just signed sports betting into law this week. Amendments to tribal-state compacts still require federal approval, but there, too, expectations are sports betting could be available by September.

Only Vermont currently joins Massachusetts on the sports betting sidelines in New England. Multiple sports betting bills failed in Vermont in 2020, although this year some lawmakers are trying again with a bill to authorize mobile-only sports betting.

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