Massachusetts House Representatives have voted 156-3 in favor of bill H3977 that would see both mobile and retail sports betting legalized in the state. The bill will now go before the Senate where it may face some further amendments relating to betting on college sports.
If enacted, the bill will legalize betting on all professional sports, esports, and college sports. However, proposition bets on individual athletes will not be allowed on college sports. The legislation will also see both retail and mobile sports betting licenses issued to eligible operators with a 15% tax on mobile operations and 12.5% tax on retail sports betting. The lower tax for retail betting was decided on to reflect the growing cost of maintaining and running casinos in the state.
Should the legislation be signed into law by State Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts will join its neighbors Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York in welcoming sports betting operators to the state.
One of the unique aspects of H3977 is that it allows for untethered mobile sports betting licenses. This means that mobile sports betting operators can apply for a license without the need to partner with a casino operator or retail sportsbook. The application fee for licenses has been set at $100,000 while the actual license fee itself is set at $5M for five years. All licenses will be renewable for a further five years at the same rate.
Existing casino operators would be allowed to open retail sportsbooks and up to three mobile sports betting platforms. At present, there’s no limit on how many mobile-only operators can receive a license although this could change if the legislation is further amended by the Senate.
Speaking following the House vote, Rep. Jerald Parisella, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development, said:
“We estimate if all those licenses go out, the commonwealth could get $70 million to $80 million just in licensing fees. I believe a conservative estimate is that we’ll raise about $60 million annually from the taxes on the sports betting. And as it gets matured, we believe that those numbers could rise.”
Parisella also added:
“Some may say that this is bringing sports betting to Massachusetts. The fact is that our Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports. They’re either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it’s legal, or they’re also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet or they’re also going to a bookie. But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts.”
One sticking point in the legislation is betting on college sports. It’s been something of a bone of contention in recent years and could yet derail the legislation if senators vote against it. However, House Speaker Ron Mariano has urged senators to consider the cost of removing it from the bill. He estimates that if college betting is not allowed, the state could lose as much as $25M to $35M every year.
Image credit: sjtine13 / CC BY 3.0