Massachusetts Sports Betting Compromise Reached, Bill Sent to Gov. Charlie Baker

The Massachusetts sports betting conference committee reached common ground just hours before the state Legislature was set to adjourn for its 2022 session.

The Boston Red Sox celebrates winning the World Series on October 28, 2018. With Massachusetts sports betting soon legal, people inside the commonwealth will be able to place legal wagers on the Red Sox. (Image: Getty)

House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-3rd Norfolk) announced the news of a sports betting compromise on Twitter.

I am proud to announce that the Sports Betting Conference Committee has reached an agreement on legislation that will legalize wagering on professional and collegiate sports in Massachusetts, bringing the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to MA. (1/2)

— Speaker Ron Mariano (@RonMariano) August 1, 2022

The agreement came after state lawmakers pushed their 12:00 am ET August 1 session deadline by five hours to 5:00 am. The extra time allowed the sports betting conference committee to finalize its compromise.

The conference committee since early June worked to find a resolution to the Senate and House differences on the expanded gaming issue.

Most divisive was the Senate’s preference to exclude all college sports from legal sportsbooks. House reps said that would allow the unregulated and untaxed offshore sports betting websites and underground bookies to continue thriving in the commonwealth.

College Sports Resolve

The Massachusetts sports betting conference committee consisted of three senators and three House representatives.

The sports betting bill the Senate passed adhered to calls from university presidents and athletics directors that legal sports betting in the state could jeopardize the integrity of college sports. But the chamber’s conference reps eventually agreed to allow betting on some college sports.

The joint resolution allows gambling on college sports, so long as the game doesn’t include a school based in Massachusetts or is being held inside the commonwealth. There is also a caveat for March Madness, which will allow oddsmakers to take action on Massachusetts schools that make the men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball tournaments.

The Senate bill came out with no college at all — the House had full college. That’s how you get things done, reach a compromise,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-1st Bristol), who was one of the Senate conference committee designees.

The House also got its way on taxes. The House sought to keep the effective tax rate on sports betting revenue lower than the Senate version — 12.5% on retail and 15% online. The Senate sports betting measure sought 20% on in-person sports wagering income and 35% online.

The conference committee settled on a 15% tax on brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and 20% on online operations.

Each of the state’s three casinos will qualify for on-site sports betting privileges. The law will also allow each casino to partner with up to two third-party online sportsbook operators.

Baker Expected to Sign

The Massachusetts Legislature signed off on the sports betting compromise this morning. The Senate and House cannot amend conference committee resolutions, but must vote in favor of a compromise before the bill can go to the governor.

With approval received in each chamber, the sports betting measure now goes to Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) desk where he’s expected to sign the legislation. If he does, sports betting in the commonwealth will become legal. The first legal bet, however, is likely weeks or months away.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) will work to establish governing conditions and safeguards. But MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said the commission has been doing so nearly since the May 2018 Supreme Court repeal of the federal law that had limited sports gambling to Nevada.

“We feel really confident that with all the due diligence we’re doing … we’ll be able to get those regulations in place nimbly and we’ll be able to [soon] start issuing licenses,” Judd-Stein said in April of the possible sports betting allowance.

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