Massachusetts Senate rejects sports-betting bill

Massachusetts’ Senate rejected the opportunity to legalize online sports-betting when it opposed Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s amendment last week.

The measure would have allowed casinos, racetracks and online operators to apply for a license to take bets.

Tarr said his amendment would have directed the revenue from initial application fees into a new economic recovery fund.

But Senate President Karen Spilka said sports-betting wasn’t an immediate priority.

Speaking to the State House News Service, she said: “Right now, the focus is going to be on conference committees, resolving the budget, and COVID. We’ll see though.”

Legalized betting in RI and NH 

The state is looking for additional tax revenues to address the economic hit caused by the pandemic.

There is added urgency due to neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire both offering legalized sports-betting. 

Boston residents need only drive for an hour to either state if they wish to have a wager.

Sen. Patrick O’Connor (Rep) emphasized the importance of capturing revenue from an activity already legalized in nearby states.

Sen. Marc Pacheco (Dem) said Massachusetts is “losing all of this revenue that we are going to need”.

Pacheco added that getting a bill agreed before the end of the session this year should be a priority.

He told the State House News Service the legislature should “absolutely get to work… to make sure this is done.

“I am very concerned that we are going to be missing the boat on this.”

Estimates for annual revenue from sports-betting in Massachusetts range from $20m to $35m. 

The state’s two casinos and its slots parlors bring in a total average of about $21m every month.

Seeking consensus

A sports-betting bill has already been approved by the state’s House as it passed an economic development bill in the summer.

The text accounts for regulation of sports wagering for seven online betting licenses for the state’s casinos and betting brands DraftKings and FanDuel..

However, the bill requires stakeholder consensus and is disputed by local casino operators Penn National and Wynn Resorts.

Both groups spoke at a Senate hearing earlier this month and requested to be the main beneficiaries of any sports betting regulation.

Lance George, General Manager of Penn’s Plainridge Park Casino (PPC) and Brian Gullbrants, President of Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor, said they should be “enfranchised under this legislation” as they had invested millions over the years to service gaming consumers in Massachusetts.


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