Massachusetts Lawmakers Begin Sports Betting Discussions, State Casinos Say Sportsbooks Critical

Posted on: May 29, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: May 28, 2019, 01:41h.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts began two days of discussions on Tuesday to decide whether to legalize sports betting across the commonwealth.

Massachusetts casinos sports betting MGM
Sports betting could soon come to Massachusetts’ three casinos including MGM Springfield. (Image: Nina Cochran/Hartford Courant)

The Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies is hosting the hearings. The 20-member panel is tasked with considering all matters involved in the gaming industry.

Sports betting has the support of Governor Charlie Baker (R). He has introduced Bill 68, “An act expanding sports wagering in the Commonwealth.”

The legislation would allow the state’s casinos to operate sportsbooks, and gross gaming revenue (GGR) from the gambling activity would be taxed at 10 percent. Online bets would be taxed slightly higher at 12.5 percent.

Baker’s legislation forecasts that the state would receive roughly $45 million in annual proceeds from sports betting.

Numerous Bills

Baker’s legislation is one of nine sports betting bills currently residing with the Joint Committee. State lawmakers began crafting their statutes soon after the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports gambling that had barred the activity everywhere except Nevada from 1992 until May 2018.

Most of the bills would permit the state’s three casinos – Plainridge Park, MGM Springfield, and forthcoming Encore Boston Harbor – to incorporate brick-and-mortar sports betting lounges. Licenses would cost $1 million.

The casinos would additionally be allowed to partner with mobile betting providers to take remote wagers placed from anywhere within the state’s borders. However, the state’s parimutuel racetracks Suffolk Downs and Raynham would be left on the sidelines.

Representatives from the casinos told the Joint Committee Tuesday that any law passed to regulate sports betting should require online operators to partner with one of the three land-based casinos.

Casino Lifeline

Massachusetts’ three casino license holders desperately want in on the sports betting game.

GGR at MGM Springfield dropped 15 percent last month. The $960 million integrated casino resort that opened last August is falling far short of earlier fiscal projections.

The casino operator told the state prior to opening the property that the gaming floor would win at least $416 million in year one. Through eight full months in operation, the Springfield casino has won $180.7 million – $96.1 million short of estimates.

MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in February that sports betting should be fast-tracked through the legislature.

We want to make sure there is a sense of urgency because of the impact it will have on the business and for the commonwealth in terms of keeping that business in the state,” Mathis stated.

Sports betting is now operational in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. And laws to govern the activity have been passed in New York, DC, Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, and Montana.

Massachusetts’ neighbor Connecticut is additionally currently considering sports betting legislation. Massachusetts is a sports-obsessed state, with its legions of fanatics supporting the home team New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins professional franchises.