Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker Urges State Lawmakers to Legalize Sports Betting

Posted on: September 15, 2021, 01:04h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2021, 11:35h.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is using the kickoff of the 2021-22 NFL season to voice his support of legal sports betting.

Massachusetts sports betting Charlie Baker
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker expresses discontent during a June press conference after the Centers for Disease Control recommended that everyone go back to wearing masks. Baker this week urged his state to join nearly three dozen others in passing legislation to govern sports betting. (Image: WBUR)

On Sunday, as the New England Patriots began their season at home in Foxboro, Ma., Baker took to social media to lend his backing to expanding the state gaming industry.

Baker has served as governor of Massachusetts since 2015. He has been a supporter of legalized sports betting since the US Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in May of 2018 that stripped the federal government of its power to determine the legality of such gambling.

The SCOTUS ruling concluded that the Professional and Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violated anti-commandeering interpretations of the US Constitution. The court said the federal government cannot allow one state (Nevada) to have legal sports betting while prohibiting the other 49 states.

A little more than three years later, 32 states have passed laws authorizing sports betting. Operations are live in 27, plus the District of Columbia.

Mass Sports Betting Exodus

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have been pondering sports betting bills since 2018. But the state legislature’s two chambers have failed to come to terms on how gambling should operate and be regulated.

As a result, sports betting remains illegal in the commonwealth. Three of Massachusetts’ border states — New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — have sportsbooks operational. Sports betting is additionally coming soon to Connecticut.

Bay Staters seeking to place a legal sports bet must travel to one of the neighboring states that do have legal sportsbooks. Baker wants to keep that money inside Massachusetts.

The governor has thrice introduced a sports betting proposal. His latest came in February when Baker presented the Massachusetts Legislature with a bill to legalize and regulate sports gambling. But for a third time, his attempt at ending sports betting prohibition in Massachusetts failed.

Latest Bill

Baker’s sports betting attempts have so far been unsuccessful. But another piece of sports gambling legislation recently gained favor in the House of Representatives. House Bill 3993 passed the chamber by a vote of 156-3 in July.

HB 3993 would give Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park, as well as the state’s two simulcasting facilities, on-site sports betting privileges. Gross gaming revenue from retail sports betting would be subject to a 12.5 percent tax.

The sports betting rights, free of a licensing fee, are designed to drive customers to brick-and-mortar casinos that employ large numbers of workers.

But HB 3993 isn’t a retail-only sports betting bill. The legislation additionally seeks to allow each land-based sportsbook and racetrack to partner with mobile sportsbook operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, but at a cost of $5 million per internet permit. GGR from online sports betting would be taxed slightly higher at 15 percent.

HB 3993 stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee during the legislature’s summer recess. State lawmakers have since returned, with the session scheduled to run through the end of the year.

State officials project that upon market maturity, Massachusetts could collect $60 million annually in sports betting taxes.