In the last week of May, MA lawmakers will hear from nine introduced sports betting bills.
Massachusetts has yet to decide on whether to move forward with legalized domestic wagering. On May 28th through the 29th, the state will be hearing multiple sports betting bills presented in this year’s legislative session. The bills will be heard by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, but co-chair to the Committee Senator Eric Lesser says he “wouldn’t bet on it,” for the immediate acceptance and passage of these bills.
The hearings on May 28th will be an invite-only testimony hearing with stakeholders, and May 29th will hold a public forum.
The Committee had been tasked with studying sports betting and the potential effects of legalization in MA. Many Massachusetts lawmakers are still unsure of what kinds of bets to allow, whether to allow collegiate game wagering and what tax rate to settle on for the domestic industry. It seems many legislators are floating in the same boat in a figurative open ocean of possibilities.
MA Governor Charlie Baker expressed support for domestic wagering and proposed the idea of allowing casinos and online providers like DraftKings to offer wagering to players 21 and over.
Some believe the pressure for MA to make up its mind is intensifying as football season nears. Likely the two-day hearing for the bills will help lawmakers solidify their positions.
Several questions would still need to be answered after the hearings. However, many believe the hearings will provide insight into these decisions such as the potential tax rate, who will regulate domestic wagering, the role of the MA State Lottery, whether to keep wagering at casinos or allow online betting, how to prevent minors from betting, and whether to apply integrity fees.
The Massachusetts State Lottery has watched the development of all MA sports betting bills and is concerned with keeping up with the expanding domestic gaming industry. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and several officials from the lottery have argued for years to have the right to sell lottery products online to keep up with the growing competition, and this argument becomes louder with betting in consideration.
The Governor would prefer a finished ready-to-sign bill before August’s legislative recess when the NFL season starts. However, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who sits as co-chair to the Joint Committee on Economic Development, says this might not be so easy to do, “It’s a complex issue… It’s an issue that we want to be very diligent with, and we want to make sure should Massachusetts go forward with sports betting legalization … that we do it properly.”
Rep. Ferrante also shared some insights into the cost of liabilities vs. benefits, which if obligations outweigh profits may cause legislators to “turn around and say no” to betting. After the hearings conclude we will update readers with what legal sports betting avenue lawmakers have considered and rejected. Eighteen year old MA players who want to wager can do so through 18+ casinos with built-in 18+ sportsbooks right now since these are licensed offshore sites.