Back in the fold?
Massachusetts has gone all in on two new casinos over the past three years, but its progress on legalizing sports betting? Well, let’s just say it had seemingly folded until last month. The Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies had reviewed five sports betting proposals, including one from State Governor Charlie Baker. Ultimately however, the joint committee opted to create its own proposal, which it advanced forward in hopes that House Ways & Means Committee (HWMC) would approve the bill for final vote from the state legislature.
As 17 other states had already passed active legal sports betting bills, much like the current group of Boston Celtics, Massachusetts was hoping for #18. Yet now, the probability that Jayson Tatum helps raise a banner for the C’s this year seems about as low as the chance of legally betting on the possibility — in Massachusetts at least. The dispersion of large parts of government due to coronavirus has brought the process to a sudden halt. Typically, when a bill is advanced to the HWMC, the next step is to educate the legislative members on the bill’s details before a vote. However, the Massachusetts Legislature has yet to debate the proposal and justifiably has its attention turned for the foreseeable future in dealing with the coronavirus.
While many were rightfully convinced that Massachusetts would introduce legalized sports betting as early as this summer, the sudden turn of events has likely postponed any legalized sports betting until 2021. Disappointing as that may be, the major professional sporting organizations are still suspended indefinitely with no clear timetable on when they might come back. However, early returns on the details of the proposed bill indicate that there is good reason for optimism.
Charlie Baker and his aforementioned proposal excluded the ability to gamble on college sports, the likes of which (mostly college basketball and football) account for a vast majority of the handle. Nevertheless, the joint committee elected to allow betting on collegiate games though it restricted placement of all bets to Division I contests, based on concerns of match-fixing at lower levels.
While the joint committee’s bill does gives more freedom as to where you prefer to best
lose your money place your wager, it also established some of its own prohibitions. Amateur sports, eSports, fantasy sports and the Olympics are all off the table as far as legal betting goes in Massachusetts, but these conditions are fairly in-line with most other states. Only Nevada and New Jersey allow eSports betting and a select few allow Olympics betting.
Divvying-Up The Pot
So, who exactly has the winning hand at the table? Well, the proposed bill would authorize legal sports betting for Massachusetts’ three casinos, horse racing tracks, and five independent operators that would allow online wagers only. One of those operators certainly figures to be Draftkings, which is headquartered in Boston.
On the government side, Massachusetts will collect 10% in taxes from in-person sportsbooks (casinos & tracks) and 12% from the online operators. The joint committee estimates that legalized sports betting could inject as much as $20 million annually in revenue. In 2019, New Jersey reaped $36 million in revenue from the $300 million total that legalized sports betting generated overall. But who knows, if Massachusetts bettors only gamble on Boston sports teams, given their recent successes, it may force a reconsideration of whether or not the house really always wins.