A new amendment to Massachusetts H366, which was filed in 2019, is circulating on Beacon Hill and was filed just in time to beat a Feb. 28 deadline to keep hopes for legal sports betting alive in the Bay State. Sports Handle has obtained a copy of the amendment, which outlines new tax, application and licensing fees and prohibits sports betting on colleges that are not Division I, Olympic sports, eSports and daily fantasy sports.
The 17-page amendment names the Massachusetts Gaming Commission as the regulator, and as such would allow it to determine what wagers will be legal as well as set a cap on the maximum wager that operators can accept. The latter issue has cropped up in other states during the regulatory process, and operators have pushed back, saying they know best what limits — minimum or maximum — should be.
The amendment sets the tax rate at 10% for gross revenue on retail sports betting and 12% for mobile sports betting. It also sets a 12% tax rate on daily fantasy contests, which is odd, as the amendment specifically states that DFS would not be governed under the amendment.
Four tiers for sports betting licenses
A significant section of the amendment is dedicated to licensing, and under the new amendment, there would be four tiers of licensing. For three of those tiers, the application fee is $500,000 with a $500,000 licensing fee, good for five years, and a $500,000 renewal fee every five years. Here’s a look at the different licenses:
- S1: This license would be for Las Vegas-style casinos and includes retail sports betting plus three online skins;
- S2: This license would be for slot-only casinos and includes retail sports betting plus two online skins;
- SH: This license would be for racetracks and would allow for retail sports betting only. The application fee for an SH license would be $50,000, with a $100,000 licensing fee and a $25,000 annual renewal fee; and
- SM: This is a mobile-only license, which would allow companies like DraftKings, which is based in Boston, or FanDuel, to have stand-alone mobile sports betting. The bill caps the number of mobile-only licenses at five.
On balance, the amendment appears to allow for a very open, competitive marketplace, if you consider that in addition to the five mobile-only licenses, there would be at least six additional skins available between MGM’s Springfield Casino and the new Boston Encore. The total number of skins for slot-only facilities and racetracks is unclear, as it depends how many racetracks would be considered active and eligible for licenses.
The bill originated in the Economic Development and Emerging Technology Committee, which held multiple informational hearings on sports betting last year. State lawmakers filed about a dozen sports betting bills in 2019 but chose to proceed “deliberately,” rather than rush forward with sports betting.
Sports betting getting lots of play in New England
While Bay State lawmakers debated and studied sports betting over the last two years, both Rhode Island and New Hampshire legalized and operators in both states are taking bets. In Rhode Island, the first bets were placed at retail locations in November 2018, and mobile betting followed about 10 months later. New Hampshire legalized in July 2019 and DraftKings launched its mobile sportsbook last December. No retail locations have opened yet.
Sports betting has been a hot topic in New England this year — Connecticut will hold its first hearing of the year on Tuesday, and in January, Maine Governor Janet Mills vetoed sports wagering legislation. A month later, the Senate overrode the veto, but the House failed to.