The House and Senate Must Come to an Agreement to Legalize Sports Betting in Massachusetts This Year


Sports betting in Massachusetts has been an uphill battle as the House and Senate chambers each passed their own bills. The House rejected most of the Senate’s amendments and will have to iron out the differences at the conference committee.

What are Bettors in Massachusetts Doing to Wager on Games

If both sides can agree on a compromise, mobile and retail sports betting would be legalized in the Bay State. The formal session will be ending on July 31st, but there is so much work that needs to be done.

HB 3993 has many differences like tax rates, what bettors across the state can place wagers on, the number of licenses that can be handed out, and sports betting advertisements. Massachusetts does not have a legalized market, which hurts its revenue generation.

Most of the Bay State’s neighbors offer sports betting within its borders. Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York offer mobile sports betting.

Those who reside in Massachusetts have been crossing state lines to bet on games throughout the year. Vermont is one of the states that doesn’t have a sports betting market.

It is highly frowned upon in the state to use offshore sportsbooks, but many have done so nonetheless for those who can’t travel often. Others have been using daily fantasy. Players aren’t necessarily betting on individual games, but the concept is very similar as most pools involve money.

What are Some of the Conflicts Between the Bills

One of the main disputes is the tax rates and the number of licenses that can be handed out once the market launches. The state House’s proposal is more operator-friendly as it calls for a 15 percent mobile tax rate and a 12.5 percent tax rate on retail sportsbook locations.

On the other hand, the Senate wants a tax rate of 35 percent for mobile sportsbook operators and 20 percent for in-person locations. Bookmakers will also not be able to use promotion deductions. The state would be able to generate more revenue and collect more taxes under the Senate’s initiative.

House Speaker Ron Mariano stated that not allowing bettors to place wagers on college sports will be a dealbreaker for him. The Senate is pushing to prohibit that action which would generate less revenue. Both sides may have to agree and just ban in-state collegiate programs.

Another restriction the Senate is pushing for is putting one on advertisements during live games. It may not be possible to implement the ban unless 85 percent of the viewers are of betting age.
The House also wants to give out more licenses, so bettors have more options to choose from.

Both Sides Will Have to Make Sacrifices

The American Gaming Association found that college sports betting makes 20 percent of the handles for most of the jurisdictions in the industry. They also found that lower tax rates help these reputable sportsbooks compete with offshore sportsbooks.draftkingsappicon

Sportsbooks have a low margin and will be at a loss when entering competitive markets. By the end of the next three to five years, operators like DraftKings may be profitable in New York despite a 51 percent tax rate based on revenue.

Both sides will have time to iron out their differences in Massachusetts. If they cannot agree, the state will have to wait until next year’s legislative session.