Massachusetts sports betting bills have seen support by the state House and Governor Charlie Baker. However, the Massachusetts Senate remains silent on the topic and no proposed bills are passing the finish line.
A recent survey was conducted by the State House News Service (SHNS) and polled all 40 Massachusetts senators. The survey showed that the majority of the senate supports legalizing sports betting.
Recent bills have fallen flat
Massachusetts sports betting has been a frustrating issue among lawmakers in the state. Multiple bills have been introduced and passed in the state House just to arrive at a standstill in the Massachusetts Senate.
Last July, the House authorized sports betting bill H 3993 with overwhelming approval by a 156-3 vote. The bill was sent to the Senate Ways and Means at that time where it has remained.
Within about a week of that first bill moving to the senate, Senator Eric Lesser sponsored another bill, S 269. The Economic Development Committee approved the bill. It was also sent to the senate and no additional movement has been seen on it.
House Speaker Ron Mariano said in March that the situation with the senate’s “stubborn reluctance to take the bill up” is frustrating.
Mass. Governor, Charlie Baker said he filed a sports betting bill roughly four years ago. The bill was based around the legal sports wagering framework that New Jersey put into place.
“Whether it’s that, or some other version,” he said in reference to the bill he filed, “I think at this point this is a fact of life.”
Massachusetts losing revenue to neighbors
Furthermore, Baker expresses frustration that Massachusetts residents simply have to travel to neighboring states to place legal sports bets.
“And for people in Massachusetts – literally many do,” he said. “To just drive over the border to be able to participate in something that is another form of entertainment, I think is unfortunate.”
Since last July, the Massachusetts Senate’s overall stance on the bills for legal sports betting have been unclear. Michael Rodrigues, Chairman of Ways and Means, said the senate is simply attempting to “get our hands around all the competing proposals out there.”
Karen Spilka, Massachusetts Senate President, has made only noncommittal statements regarding legal sports betting. In January, she spoke about the Senate’s priorities and said that the bills would be examined.
“You know, some want to do it, some are uncertain they want to do it,” she said. “But we will be taking a look at it with the senators.”
Poll shows 60% Massachusetts Senate support for sports betting
The survey conducted in March by the SHNS could be a hopeful sign that sports betting in Massachusetts will gain some traction.
The survey asked the questions, “”Do you support legalized sports betting in Massachusetts in any form? If yes, what form?” 24 senators either responded to the survey in support of legal sports betting or have previously sponsored sports betting bills.
Eight senators declined to comment on the survey, were noncommittal on the subject, or said they were undecided. Some senators did not respond to the survey at all, including Spilka.
In response to House Speaker Mariano’s March comments on his frustration, Spilka said she would like to see “some sort of consensus” among state senators before a bill is moved forward in the senate.
Supporters reference increased revenues
Many senators surveyed expressed concern that the delays in sports betting are causing state revenue to be lost.
Senator Diana DiZoglio represents communities that border New Hampshire, where sports betting is legal. For this reason, she is supportive of legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts.
“Folks are placing their sports bets in New Hampshire by taking a few short minutes to drive or walk across the border,” she said. “This continues to result in a significant revenue loss for Massachusetts and gain for New Hampshire.”
Senator Michael Brady lamented the loss of the revenue Massachusetts could have gained from Super Bowl 2022.
“I think we missed the ball when Tom Brady, even though he played for Tampa Bay, when he went to the Super Bowl there,” he said.
He added that many of the residents in his district support legal sports betting.
“My constituents in the towns I represent, including the City of Brockton, are looking for more revenue,” he said.
Other senators referenced the increased jobs and other opportunities that legal sports betting would provide.
Senator Marc Pacheco said legislation “would give Massachusetts residents the ability to enjoy an entertaining activity, create new opportunities for our statewide economy, and provide valuable resources to support critical state initiatives and programs.”
Some Senators still have concerns
While the majority of Senators polled expressed sports betting support, some were still concerned with the unknowns of the bills proposed.
Senator Will Brownsberger said he may support a sports wagering bill, but he has concerns.
“I’m OK with sports betting in theory, but there are many unresolved questions about the scope of activities that should be eligible for sports betting,” he said. “How to set it up, how to regulate it, and how to share the revenue it generates.”
Additionally, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz said her major focus in sports betting is to make sure it’s economically beneficial for all communities.
“My top concerns will be around ensuring we’re making our tax code more progressive, not regressive,” she said. “And ensuring economic development opportunities serve communities most often left out.”
Several senators simply stated that they’re going to wait to see the bill in front of them to state their support or opposition. Whether sports betting comes to Massachusetts or not, movement on legislation is on the horizon in 2022.