Massachusetts sports betting negotiations head to conference committee after the House opted not to concur with Senate changes Tuesday.
With a for-show voice vote after no discussion, the House rejected the Senate substitute language for H 3993 as expected.
The chambers have until July 31 to work out substantial differences in sports betting language related to wagering on college sports, tax rate, licensees/online skins and advertising rules.
House sports betting conferees named
Three House members will serve on the conference committee along with three members of the Senate.
The House named Rep. Jerry Parisella to chair the conference committee. Parisella chaired the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee that worked on sports betting legislation.
Joining Parisella will be Reps. Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian. Michlewitz chairs the Ways and Means Committee.
Michlewitz has previous experience on a conference committee involving sports betting. In 2020, he chaired a conference committee on an economic development bill. The House included sports wagering in its version, but the Senate did not. The conference committee ended up removing the sports betting language.
As a Republican, Muradian serves as the minority-party member of the committee. He worked on the issue previously as the ranking member of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee.
“We’ll be ready to negotiate in good faith, and, hopefully, we’ll get a good product out there that benefits all the residents,” Muradian told PlayMA. “Any bill that requires a roll-call vote needs to be done by the end of July. So that’s kind of the cutoff for us, and we have to get the conference committee stuff done by then, too.”
Before the conference committee can get started, the Senate needs to name conferees.
Sen. Eric Lesser almost certainly will lead the Senate conferees. Lesser was the Senate chair of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee alongside Parisella. He crafted the sports betting language passed by the Senate.
Lesser also chaired the economic development conference committee that did not include sports betting in the conference report.
Stark differences between House and Senate language
If the conference committee can reach an agreement on a conference report, it’s almost certain each chamber would adopt the conference report and advance H 3993 to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker.
In other states, all previous conference committees formed on sports betting have come to terms on language for a bill.
However, with so many vast differences, Massachusetts very well could be the first state to fail to produce a favorable conference report on sports betting.
Key differences include:
- The Senate bill does not include betting on collegiate sports.
- 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, three horse racetracks to have one, and unlimited untethered mobile licenses. Racetracks were left out of the Senate version.
- In the Senate language, credit card deposits are banned.
- The Senate prohibited TV stations from airing sports betting advertisements during all sporting events aired in the state.
Where committee members stand on college betting
In past interviews with PlayMA, Parisella and Muradian spoke strongly of the need for Massachusetts to allow wagering on college sports.
Parisella called this one of the biggest differences in the bills in an email last week. He noted that the House version does not allow prop bets on college athletes.
Muradian pointed out that many Massachusetts residents aren’t likely to move to regulated apps without college betting.
“To me, it makes sense to have collegiate gaming in,” Muradian said. “I can’t see many people who would cross from an unregulated industry to the regulated and back and forth. If you want to bet on your college sports, you stay in your dark market.”
To address concerns about maintaining the integrity of local athletes, the House bill has a provision paying in-state sports facilities that host college or pro games 1% of handle bet on those games to ensure security and integrity.
“Hopefully it will help alleviate their concerns and give them the tools necessary if they feel they need to increase security or ensure integrity at games,” Parisella said. “I haven’t heard about a lot of issues in states that do have college betting, but this adds an extra step to help colleges teams and pro teams to beef up security. Colleges seem to be evolving with the recent NIL decisions. I think for college, we want it to be in the open.”