Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Finally Set for State Senate Debate

Posted on: April 25, 2022, 08:55h. 

Last updated on: April 25, 2022, 04:18h.

After much delay, a Massachusetts sports betting bill is finally scheduled for debate in the state’s upper chamber.

Massachusetts sports betting Boston college
The exterior of the Massachusetts State House in Boston. State lawmakers will debate the merits of legalizing sports betting later this week. (Image: WBSM)

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed House Bill 3933 in July of 2021. The act seeks to allow the state’s three commercial casinos and two simulcasting facilities to run sportsbooks.

However, HB 3933 has sat mothballed in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since last summer. After nearly a year of inaction following overwhelming support in the House, the Senate committee finally voted in favor of the gaming expansion bill late last Friday.

HB 3933 now heads to the full Senate floor for deliberation with the committee’s blessing. A hearing on the sports betting statute is scheduled for this Thursday, April 28.

Same Bill, Different Text

HB 3933 was nearly unanimously approved in the House. Of the 159 representatives who voted on the sports betting bill, only three voted “no.” The widespread, cross-party support in the House for making Massachusetts a legal sports betting state was why the Senate Ways and Means Committee faced substantial scrutiny for seemingly dragging its feet on the issue.

Committee Chair Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) said the criticism was unwarranted, as the committee was doing its due diligence regarding the proposed expanded gaming. Rodrigues said the bill would move forward once adequate support is realized.

That support came last Friday. But it was on a bill that has changed from the House-approved version of HB 3933. The primary difference in the text forwarded by the Senate committee is that betting on collegiate sports involving state-based colleges and universities would be prohibited.

That means Massachusetts residents would remain barred from placing a wager on a Boston College football game regardless of whether the Eagles were playing at home or on the road in another state.

Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano says that would likely be a “dealbreaker.” While the majority of the states that have passed laws to regulate sports betting have not included such a provision, several have, including New Jersey and New York.

In-state betting bans aim to keep sports betting interests and gamblers at an arm’s length from collegiate players who might be more susceptible to being influenced to throw a game.

Tax Hike

Another key difference in HB 3933 from the House-approved version and the Senate committee one is the proposed effective tax rates.

The House statute suggests a 12.5% tax on retail sports betting revenue and 15% on online betting income. The current Senate sports gambling bill greatly increases those revenue tax rates to 20% and 35%, respectively.

Nevada taxes sportsbooks at just 6.75% on their gross revenue. The highest-taxed sports betting states are Rhode Island and New York, which requires oddsmakers to send 51% of their net receipts to the state governments.

New Jersey, the richest sports betting state prior to New York permitting online wagering, taxes online sports betting income at 14.25%. Retail books pay only a 9.75% tax.