State House Approves Sports Betting Bill | State House


The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts on Thursday night, but even before the vote, the question of whether college sports betting should be allowed emerged as a point of view. major friction between the House and the Senate.

The House voted 156-3 to pass its sports betting bill (H 3977), which, according to a bipartisan parade of representatives, was long overdue. Representatives Mike Connolly, Russell Holmes and Erika Uyterhoeven cast the three dissenting votes. Some have said they hope the House’s imbalanced vote will send a message to the Senate, which has been less enthusiastic about sports betting, that Massachusetts residents want to bet legally.

“I represent a district that borders New Hampshire. In Haverhill you can literally cross the New Hampshire border and place a bet. I know my constituents who participate in sports betting would prefer to place these bets at home and in their own and would prefer the revenues collected to go to their home state, Massachusetts, ”said Representative Andy Vargas of Haverhill.

For Lynn Rep Dan Cahill, Thursday’s vote was about something even simpler.

“Most importantly, it’s just fun. People have the right to have fun,” he said. “And sports betting is fun.”

But even before the House voted on Thursday to pressure the Senate to act, House Speaker Ronald Mariano drew a line in the sand on Bloomberg Baystate Business and said leaving college betting out. of any bill “would probably be” a dealbreaker.

“It’s a good point, but I tend to think it probably would be,” he said, adding that negotiations had not started. “I have a hard time trying to justify all of this so as not to include probably the main driving force behind Commonwealth betting.”

Massachusetts has been considering expanding gambling here since the United States Supreme Court in May 2018 ruled that the almost nationwide ban on sports betting was unconstitutional and gave states the ability to legalize the activity.

“Some might say that brings sports betting to Massachusetts. The point is, our people in Massachusetts are already betting on sports. They either take that short drive to New Hampshire or Rhode Island, where it’s legal. , either they ‘they also go on their phones and use offshore applications, these sports betting, to bet or they also go to a bookmaker, “said representative Jerald Parisella, who chairs the economic development committee, while describing the bill for the House Thursday. “But what it does is bring it out of the shadows and the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts.”

Thirty states, including neighboring Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York State, have allowed players to place legal bets on the sport in one way or another. Meanwhile, illicit gambling continues to draw punters to Massachusetts as well.

“We are surrounded,” said Parisella.

The House bill would place sports betting under the responsibility of the Gaming Commission, require all bettors to be at least 21 years of age and physically present in Massachusetts, and implement numerous consumer safeguards to keep them safe. protect against compulsive gambling similar to those put in place for Massachusetts extended gambling in 2011.

MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, the two simulcast facilities and state racetracks that host live horse races (at present the only one is in Plainridge Park) would be awarded licenses to take bets in person as long as they meet the rules and requirements of the Gaming Commission. They would be allowed to have between one and three mobile sports betting platforms, depending on the facility. Mobile-only operators could also apply for licenses, and each license would be charged $ 5 million.

“We estimate that if all these licenses come out, the Commonwealth could get $ 70 million to $ 80 million just in license fees,” Parisella said Thursday.

Sports betting income from in-person betting would be taxed at 12.5% ​​and mobile betting income at 15%. Parisella said the higher mobile operator tax recognizes the additional costs that physical facilities would have and aims to attract customers to businesses that employ people in Massachusetts.

“I think a conservative estimate is that we’ll be raising around $ 60 million a year from sports betting taxes,” Parisella said, citing a number higher than most previous estimates for sports betting in Massachusetts. “And as it matures, we think those numbers could increase.”

If college betting isn’t allowed, Mariano said, the revenue estimate would drop to between $ 25 million and $ 35 million a year.

“We hope the legislature moves quickly to establish a regulated market that will create jobs, protect consumers, and support the many Massachusetts businesses that are currently losing customers to neighboring states,” said Griffin Finan, vice president of business Government of DraftKings. “The time to act is now. We look forward to continuing to work with both branches to get a final bill on the goal line.”

An additional 1% tax would be levied on bets placed on sporting events held in Massachusetts, to be distributed proportionately among the facilities that hosted the events and to be used for “the safety and integrity of sports betting.”

Rep. Ken Gordon explained last year that sites like Gillette Stadium or TD Garden will need money to bolster their security “because they need to protect themselves from communications from someone who might be there to help. having a conversation that we don’t. want to happen. “

The House bill would allow betting on the results of college athletic competitions, but not on the performance of individual college athletes.

Whether or not to allow varsity athletics betting has been a recurring theme over the three years lawmakers have spent reviewing sports betting, and this is shaping up to be the most important difference between the draft House Act and Senator Eric Lesser’s Sports Betting Bill (S 269). This bill is before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and should be the vehicle of the Senate if or when it addresses the issue.

“If we’re going to get a bill through, we both have to move on,” Mariano said on Bloomberg, when asked about the different feelings about collegiate betting in the House and Senate.

Through an amendment by Representative Paul McMurtry, the House on Thursday added a provision to its sports betting bill that would allow the Gaming Commission to grant licenses allowing certain veterans organizations to operate up to to five slot machines. It is also probably a point of divergence with the Senate.

Ahead of the House debate on Thursday, Lesser said he believed his more reluctant branch was “ready to do it – if it is done the right way.”

“I think we’re ready. Look, it’s been three years since the Supreme Court allowed states to move forward on sports betting. Since then you’ve gone from two states – New Jersey and Nevada – which had sports betting markets at 30. And again, almost all of our neighbors in almost all of the northeastern states now have it, ”Lesser, Senate Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said Thursday morning on NESN. “Then it’s about time. It’s time for Massachusetts to do it. “

The House and Senate are expected to take a summer recess soon, and it is unclear when the Senate plans to consider a sports betting bill. Like the House, the Senate largely takes on its workload one week at a time.

Although he said he believed the end of 2021 was a realistic expectation for sports betting to launch in Massachusetts, Lesser said that “the Senate will take, may or may not take something in the near future.”

The House approved the legalization of sports betting last summer as part of an economic development bill, but the Senate has refused several opportunities to do the same. Lesser told the regional sports network that senators would likely address gambling issues and consumer protection if or when they debate the issue this session.

“It is, at the end of the day, a gaming product, and we have to remember that. We have a lot of senators who are concerned about this and want to make sure that the people who might have an addiction, the people who might plagued by bad activity, are protected, “he said.” So we’re going to make sure that any bill… has a lot of consumer protections and really sets a high standard for the quality of the game. “

Majority leader Senator Cynthia Creem is among the senators who have opposed casino games and said they are not enthusiastic about sports betting. Creem said in the last session that she would be inclined to oppose its legalization and Senator Jamie Eldridge, another opponent of casino games, said he would work to prevent casinos in the state from be allowed to take bets on sporting events.

Senate Speaker Karen Spilka was among the opponents of casino gambling legalization in 2010 before leading successful efforts in 2011 to pass and enact a revised casino bill.

“There will be a lot of talk,” she said in March, referring to sports betting. “I know a lot of members have had various ideas and thoughts on this, whether to do it or not, or how to do it. So there will be a lot of debate and discussion about it.”

Governor Charlie Baker, who would be asked to sign any sports betting bill passed by the Legislature, introduced his own bill (H 70) to legalize the activity and has repeatedly listed 35 million dollars in sports betting income in its annual budget proposals.

The Gaming Commission, which would draft specific sports betting regulations and oversee activity under nearly all proposals on Beacon Hill, has remained neutral in the sports betting debate, but executive director Karen Wells said the agency was doing what she could now to brace yourself for the possibility that he was given a new responsibility.

“We recognize that there is a significant interest in getting things done. I hear these representatives and senators talking about finance and money in the Commonwealth, so we recognize that there is a public interest in what we do. let’s start as soon as possible, ”she said. said last month during a hearing on the matter.

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