BOSTON, MA – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday voted to legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth. To this point, more than 30 states – including Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island – have made the move to allow sports betting since the Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports wagering in May 2018.
“Legalizing sports betting would be a tremendous revenue-producer for Massachusetts, and it would end the outsourcing of this operation to illegal markets and other states,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Today is an important step forward and I am confident that the House and Senate will be able to find common ground on the differences between each version of the bill and send final legislation to the Governor before the end of session.”
Americans spent nearly $9.3 billion on sports betting in January, according to the American Gaming Association, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee estimated the bill would create $35 million in annual revenue for Massachusetts.
The Senate bill would task the Massachusetts Gaming Commission with overseeing all sports betting. Additionally, the Senate bill establishes a process for casinos and racetracks to seek licenses for in-person sports betting, and for placing wagers through mobile apps. No more than six licenses would be available to offer betting electronically through mobile devices and online – the Gaming Commission be responsible for establishing a competitive application process to award the licenses.
Senators debated nearly 70 amendments to the bill which included whether to allow wagers on college athletics, how the framework for sports betting licenses should be structured, and how sports betting revenue should be spent.
Senator O’Connor offered amendments to legalize betting on college sports, E-sports, and the Olympics – however, after discussing the amendments with Senate leadership, it was clear the language would not have enough support and the amendments were withdrawn.
“Bettors in Massachusetts are currently betting illegally on college sports, largely on offshore websites which have no obligation to detect or report concerns regarding the integrity of the games,” said O’Connor. “Legal, regulated sports betting markets are the most effective way to ensure the integrity of sporting events, and by leaving this language out of our bill we could be unintentionally driving bettors back to the illegal market absent of oversight, undermining sports integrity and hindering investigations. It is my hope that the final version of the bill contains these crucial points.”
An additional amendment offered by O’Connor would have established Financial Literacy education as required curriculum in schools and dedicated a percentage of sports wagering excise revenues to a new Financial Literacy Trust Fund.
During debate, O’Connor said, “Sports wagering and the gambling industry is intended for responsible, smart engagement by individuals who are aware of the risks. We need to be preparing future generations for the risks. Not only the risks of gambling, but the risks associated with loans, mortgages, credit cards, and all kinds of financial tools that they will inevitably come in contact with. As a state, we should commit to advancing high-quality financial literacy education in our public schools.”
A version of this legislation having previously passed the House of Representatives, the differences will need to be worked out by the branches before advancing to the Governor’s desk.