Massachusetts sports betting bill passes legislature

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Massachusetts lawmakers passed an online and retail sports betting bill early Monday morning, clearing the final major hurdle for legal sportsbooks in one of the nation’s most anticipated markets.

The legislation, reached after months of negotiations between two contrasting versions in the state House and Senate, will allow up to 15 statewide mobile licenses. The bill also permits retail books at the state’s major casino gaming facilities as well as two simulcast wagering venues.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who has backed sports betting legalization for years, is expected to sign the compromise legislation in the coming days, formally legalizing betting in the commonwealth.

“We are thrilled that our home state has acted to protect consumers, create jobs and grow revenue in the Commonwealth,” said Boston-based DraftKings CEO Jason Robins in a statement. “We are hopeful that the legislature will move to quickly pass this bill and Governor Baker will sign it into law.”

It’s still too early to tell when statewide mobile wagering will begin. In most states the promulgation of online sports betting rules and the following licensing review takes six to 12 months.

Retail books will likely open before the online launch. MGM Springfield and Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor both have the physical framework for retail sportsbooks and will likely start taking bets shortly after regulators’ approval. Penn National’s Plainridge Park Casino has a pari-mutual simulcast center at its facility which could also be converted into a sportsbook.

That sign-off could come by this fall’s football season, the most lucrative time of the year for sportsbooks.

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins: “We are thrilled that our home state has acted to protect consumers, create jobs and grow revenue in the Commonwealth.”

MGM, Wynn and Penn National each will have up to two mobile “skins,” or online sportsbook licenses, apiece. Each will likely use one of their allotted skins on their own sportsbook (BetMGM, WynnBet and Barstool Sportsbook, respectively) and could partner with another operator for the other. Such deals are common in other states.

Massachuettes’ two other simulcast facilities are also each allotted one online sports betting license apiece. There are seven more potential licenses for operators not partnered with any of the land-based facilities.

DraftKings, which has lobbied for Massachusetts sports betting legalization for years, is a leading candidate for one of the licenses. Rival FanDuel, the national US market share leader by handle, is also a favorite to earn a license.

Caesars, another major US market share leader that has spent heavily promoting its book in other states, will also likely seek market access. Other notable companies such as PointsBet and Rush Street International are also set to pursue licensure.

Assuming all 15 potential licenses go live, Massachusetts would have more legal sports betting options than the other five New England states combined.

Massachusetts sports betting framework is a compromise between two separate bills, one that passed the Senate and the other by the House. The Senate version banned wagers on college sports, featured one of the nation’s highest tax rates and severely restricted advertising, major differences from the House proposal, which was supported by most major gaming stakeholders.

A conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers worked for weeks to find a compromise. The final bill allowed wagers on college sports teams, though it prohibits bets on in-state college programs. The bill does allow wagers if the school is competing in a major national tournament, such as the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, perennially the most-wagered upon event in the US.

The final bill has a 20% gross gaming revenue tax rate on online wagers and 15% on retail bets, both higher rates than the roughly 10% national average but a reduction from the initial Senate figure. The approved legislation also strips much of the Senate’s more stringent advertising bans, including a proposal that would ban ads during the course of live sporting events.

Massachusetts has one of the nation’s highest per capita income and education levels, both figures that correlate positively with sports betting participation. Combined with some of the nation’s most-followed professional sports franchises, industry figures believe Massachusetts could be one of America’s most lucrative legal wagering markets.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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