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MA House Reps Prepare to Vote on Redrafted Sports Betting Bill

After an unsuccessful attempt to legalize sports betting last year, efforts to authorize the market are back on track in Massachusetts.

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On Monday, House Speaker Ron Mariano sent out an updated schedule to all representatives, notifying them of a formal session on Thursday to discuss a legislation that could see the precinct join neighboring states like New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire in legalizing the vertical.

The bill, H.3974, is a revised version of H.506, which was initially sponsored by Rep Dan Cahill. The legislation was redrafted by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies over the weekend, and after reporting out of the Committee favorably, it is now up for consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee before being tabled in the House on Thursday.

The Committee also signed off on Sen. Eric Lesser’s S.269, sending it to the Senate. Eric’s measure proposes a ban on collegiate sports and higher tax rates.

The good news is that the state’s legislative session will run through December, which means that there’s plenty of time for MA lawmakers to discuss and approve the bills.

Contents of the Redrafted Bill

H.3974 seeks to legalize retail and statewide online sports wagering in the Bay State, and gives the Massachusetts Gaming Commission the mandate to regulate the market. The offering will be available to residents of the state and visitors who are 21 years and older.

If the legislation becomes law without any amendments, the state will have three license types for operators:

  •  Category 1: The permit will be awarded to casino operators and licensees will be allowed up to three online skins.
  • Category 2: Class 2 licenses will be available to racetracks. Holders of this permit will be allowed one online skin.
  • Category 3: The Commission will award Category 3 permits to online operators. These businesses will be allowed to partner with holders of Category 1 and 2 licenses for online wagering.

The initial cost of applying for category 1, 2, and 3 licenses will be $100,000, and all applicants will be required to pay the fee to the commission when submitting their bids for consideration. Successful applicants will pay an additional $5,000,000 for a five-year permit, which shall be renewed at the same cost.

If a permanent license is not available at the time of approval, the operator will pay $1,000,000 for a temporary permit which will be valid for a period not exceeding 1 year, and an additional $4,000,000 when the permanent permit is granted.

The proposed tax rate in the revised version of Cahill’s bill is 12.5% for retail sportsbooks, and 15% for online operators.

The legislation also proposes a ban on in-play betting on college sports, and a mandate for sportsbooks to use official league data in the settling of in-play wagers.

MA Gaming Commission to Evaluate Feasibility of Sports Betting Kiosks

Besides pushing for regulated wagering in the state’s casino, racetracks, and on mobile, H.3974 further calls on the Gaming Commission to conduct a study on the feasibility of authorizing sports betting kiosks to operate across the state.

The research will examine the economic impact of allowing facilities like bars and restaurants to offer in-person betting, and determine which establishments have the ability to set up and run betting kiosks.

In addition to evaluating the economic benefits of an expanded market, the study will also seek to establish whether allowing this type of wagering will result in a rise in problem gambling, or expose minors to the activity.

The Commission will be expected to submit its findings to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, House Ways and Means Committee, and clerks of both Houses before December 31, 2022.

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