Massachusetts Sports Betting? Lots Of Bills In Play For 2019

Posted By Martin Derbyshire on February 4, 2019

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is giving state lawmakers yet another kick at the legal sports betting can this year.

Baker recently introduced a bill that would legalize and tax sports betting on pro sports both online and at Massachusetts casinos.

However, there is one big difference between this bill and others also introduced by various Massachusetts senators in January. It appears Baker wants to open the door to the sports betting market to operators outside the budding Massachusetts casino industry as well.

No land-based casino partner required

In fact, Gov. Baker’s bill would allow companies like Boston-based US daily fantasy sports and New Jersey sports betting market leader DraftKings to open up stand-alone retail and online sportsbooks without partnering with land-based casinos first.

Plus, the bill proposes no cap on the number of operators, making it possible that several major US sportsbook operators will flock to Massachusetts if it is passed.

Baker’s bill includes a tax rate of ten percent on gross sports betting revenue and 12.5 percent on gross online sports betting revenue. The bill also seeks to introduce a 12.5 percent tax on fantasy sports contests, which are currently legal and regulated but not taxed in Massachusetts.

Baker’s bill is also asking operators to pay a $100,000 application fee and $500,000 five-year licensing fee.

A ban on college sports betting

Additionally, Baker’s bill is also unique in that it would not allow betting on college or amateur sports of any kind.

Of the states that have launched legal sports betting since the US Supreme Court lifted a federal ban in 2018, only New Jersey has introduced restrictions on college sports betting. New Jersey does not allow bets on local college teams or college sporting events taking place inside the state.

There are several other major differences between the sports betting bills the Massachusetts Legislature will consider this year.

Other MA sports betting bills

A bill introduced by Sen. James Welch proposes the launch of legal online and retail sports betting operations by Massachusetts casinos only. This includes MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park, and Encore Boston Harbor, which is set to open this summer. The bill also proposes a lighter 6.75 percent tax rate on sports betting revenue.

A bill from Sen. Brendan Crighton also authorizes both retail and mobile operations. However, it seeks to charge a $500,000 license fee, $100,000 annual renewal fee and a tax rate of 12.5 percent on all gross sports betting revenue.

Further sports betting legislation introduced by Sen. Michael Rush is unique in Massachusetts in that it would offer royalty fees to pro sports leagues in the US. The bill would give the leagues 0.25 percent of the total amount wagered each quarter and force operators to buy official league data.

The bill also seeks a $100,000 application fee and a $10,000 license renewal fee but does not currently set a tax rate.

Finally, a bill introduced by Sen. Bruce Tarr would take the more cautious approach of creating an 11-person study commission to look into legal sports betting.

All five of these bills will ultimately be assigned to a Senate committee for further study. However, the Massachusetts Legislature is now on a path towards making a decision on legal sports betting in the state this year.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years experience in the world of poker and gambling. He contributes to a number of publications dealing with the US regulated online gambling market. He has traveled the globe working as an editor, producer, and writer as well as interviewing major players in the gaming world.

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