Sports betting in Massachusetts is going to have to wait until 2021. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, House Bill 4559 was pushed to the back burner as the state tried to figure out ways to tackle the ongoing pandemic.
The state is already behind in sports betting legalization as bordering states like Vermont and Rhode Island has legalized the new industry. Massachusetts residents can drive to either state to place bets, which is costing the state revenue loss.
Experts believe that legalized sports betting could generate $30 million-$50 million for the state once the market matures. The state was on pace for legalization until the discussions of the bill fell off the table. Now, the people of Massachusetts will have to wait a little bit longer for sports betting to pass.
A sports betting bill was making significant progress in early March before COVID-19 broke out in the U.S. Ultimately, the Commonwealth pushed everything aside to work on an economic development bill that would help stimulate the local economy.
The House passed its version of the economic development bill by a 156-3 vote, which had sports betting as part of the bill. However, the Senate voted against the House bill and stated that trying to legalize sports betting and passing an economic stimulus bill was not the best idea.
Although the Senate favors passing sports betting, they believed that the industry should have a bill for itself instead of sticking it on the end of another bill.
Massachusetts is desperate for money. Like many states, they face a budget deficit thanks to the pandemic and need to find ways to bring money into the state. Sen. Michael Brady is on record saying they have a $5 billion deficit on their hands and need money as quickly as possible.
Sports betting will be an instant boost to bring in revenue if a bill is passed. Many people in south Massachusetts are going to Rhode Island to bet on sports when they could stay in the state and do it here. However, sessions among the legislature will not be discussing sports betting for the remainder of 2020.
The state is just going to have to hold off until next year.
What Could Sports Betting Look Like?
On HB 4559, the state would allow up to seven sports betting licenses charging operators $250,000 for five years. The industry would also be taxed at 15% as well. Massachusetts universities are also lobbying that the state does not allow people to wager on its games.
Senior VP of Government Relations Christopher Cylke stated:
“Allowing legal, regulated wagering on collegiate events strengthens the integrity of games and protects bettors, competitions, and the athletes competing in them by enabling robust, transparent, and collaborative monitoring by regulators and law enforcement. Only in a legal, regulated market do regulators and law enforcement have insight into betting patterns and activity that can help them identify concerning trends that, in turn, help to uncover unlawful tampering with games and athletes.
Whether the state goes with it or not remains to be seen. Overall, the state will look to legalize sports betting, but who knows if the state will bet on colleges in the Commonwealth. Multiple states have outlawed betting on local college sports, so it would be no surprise if Massachusetts goes down that road as well.