Just because the state of Massachusetts hasn’t passed sports betting legislation yet doesn’t mean it’s ignoring the topic. Au contraire. State lawmakers are mobilizing in an effort to have passable legislation prepared for vote in the early days of the 2019 session.
Earlier this week, the full legislature agreed to extend a deadline in the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies from May 31 to June 15, so the committee could further evaluate multiple senate bills dealing with gaming, including sports betting, horse racing and the state lottery.
The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on May 14, opening the door for states to legalize sports wagering if they so desire. Many do. Several states across the country and particularly in the Northeast have been scrambling to push forward legislation or implement what they had already put into place.
Lawmakers Targeting 2019 to Make MA Sports Betting a Reality.
Representative Joseph Wagner (D-8th District), the chairman of that committee, spoke about sports betting on Wednesday on “Connecting Point,” a television news show WGBY.
“I think the approach here is to move this to the front burner,” Wagner said. “But not to move so quickly that we get it wrong. … We’re still waiting to see what Rhode Island will offer in terms of detail, and they haven’t enacted a law that supports a conceptual framework. I don’t think we’re behind the curve on this.”
Rhode Island, which borders Massachusetts to the south, has a bill in the state legislature that would develop infrastructure to handle sports betting. The state put out a request for proposals for vendors interested in overseeing legal sports wagering in Rhode Island in April. Neighboring Connecticut held hearings during its general assembly and outgoing Governor Daniel Malloy is pushing for a special session to consider sports betting, but lawmakers did not pass a law before the legislative session ended last month.
Massachusetts, which has two commercial casino resorts under construction, currently has a slots facility in Plainville, near the Rhode Island border, and myriad live dog- and horse-racing tracks, any of which may be interested in housing sports betting operations.
The State Gaming Commission Proposed Multiple Tax Rates, Depending on What Entities Will Be Legally Allowed to Have MA Sports Betting.
During the interview, Wagner shed some light on the state’s proposed tax rate for sports betting. The state gaming commission released results of a white paper earlier this year and the range for projected revenue in the paper was huge – between $9-$61 million. Wagner explained that is because the proposed tax rate is variable, depending on which operators the state determines could host sports betting.
As examples, should the state allow sports betting only at brick-and-mortar locations, the proposed tax rate is 6.75 percent. But if the state makes it legal to offer sports betting at brick-and-mortar locations, retail outlets and online, the proposed tax rate would rise to about 15 percent.
Whatever the number, the state has a lot of work to do to develop a regulatory framework. And Wagner said that work has already begun.
“It won’t be taken up for formal action in this Senate, but the work will be taken up immediately,” he said.
The plan is to hammer out the details of sports betting in Massachusetts before the legislature reconvenes in January so “we’ll be ready to go.”