Governor Charlie Baker to File Sports Betting Bill in Massachusetts
Over the last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has been making a strong push toward legalizing sports betting within state borders. Baker’s office announced that he plans to file a bill to legalize sports betting in the state and has already begun crafting the framework.
Baker’s Proposed Bill
Under Baker’s proposal, betting on college sports wouldn’t be allowed. If it is approved, Baker’s bill would permit the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue Category 1 sports gambling licenses to Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield.
A Category 2 license could be issued to Plainridge Park, a slots casino. Encore Boston Harbor is slated to open this year sometime. Only casinos already licensed would be permitted to operate sportsbooks.
The bill would also allow the Gaming Commission to issue licenses to unaffiliated entities to carry out online-only sports betting. Casinos would also be able to offer online sports wagering as an addition to their physical sportsbooks. Casinos could also contract out to another company to offer online sports betting.
In an official statement, Baker discussed how legalizing sports betting will help the state’s economy and keep it competitive with its neighbors.
“Expanding Massachusetts’ developing gaming industry to include wagering on professional sports is an opportunity for Massachusetts to invest in local aid while remaining competitive with many other states pursuing similar regulations. Our legislation puts forth a series of common sense proposals to ensure potential licensees are thoroughly vetted and safeguards are in place to protect against problem gambling and illegal activity. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill into law.”
Much like the current regulations for DFS in the state, this proposal would continue to ban gambling on amateur, college, and high school sports as well as eSports. Like with other gambling, bettors would have to be 21 or older in order to wager on sports.
Governor Baker recently told Boston Public Radio that his bill was based on a bill passed in New Jersey last June. Speaking of the legislation and why Massachusetts needs to legalize sports betting, Baker said,
“It’s legal, it’s going to start happening in a lot of other states .. and, I think, from our point of view, it’s probably a conversation we need to have.”
The bill would set the application fee at $100,000 with a $500,000 renewal fee every five years. As for taxes, in-person licensees would pay 10 percent while online and mobile betting sites would be taxed at 12.5 percent. Daily Fantasy Sports contests like DraftKings and FanDuel would also be required to pay 12.5 percent tax. All tax revenue would go to the Gaming Local Aid Fund.
Baker believes his plan would generate a yearly revenue of $35 million beginning in 2020.
Legal Sports Betting in the U.S.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that banned sports betting outside of Nevada was unconstitutional and that it should be up to the states to legislate sports gambling. Since the decision, eight states including Nevada now have legal sports betting.
In dozens of other states, there is legislation already passed or waiting to be passed. Nearby states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already legalized sports betting. Neighbors like Connecticut and Maine are actively pursuing legislation. Massachusetts needs to get this process going if they want to be competitive with other states. The last thing they want is to lose money to their neighbors.
Other Bills in Massachusetts
A number of other lawmakers including Representative Dan Cullinane, Representative Brad Hill, Senator Brendan Crighton, and Senator Michael Rush have all filed their own proposals to legalize sports gambling.
With numerous state leaders and the Governor all pushing for legalized sports betting, this seems like a matter of “when” and not “if.” 2019 is going to be a very important year for Massachusetts in regards to gambling and sports betting.
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