Analysis

Massachusetts momentum builds for betting regulation

Momentum is building in Massachusetts that could see sports-betting being regulated in the state this year.

Governor Charlie Baker and Senator Brendan Crighton have stated that they want the state to join the 20 other jurisdictions that have already passed sports betting bills.

Local media, betting and casino operators and racetracks have all stated their support for regulation.

State budget for 2022  

Presenting his budget plan for 2022 last week which includes provisions for his HD 678 sports betting bill, Baker said state politicians did not want to look at adding a sports betting bill in 2020 because of the many issues raised by the COVID19 pandemic. 

He added that overall the stance had changed as they looked forward to 2022.

“I do think it is something they want to take on in this legislative session for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is we now have a lot of experience with other states in the northeast that are in the space. It seems kind of inappropriate at this point for us to not be there as well,” he said.

Baker’s budget forecasts tax revenues of $35m from sports wagering in the first year of activity.

Senator Brendan Crighton also tabled his own bill: SD 177. Crighton said he wanted to regulate sports-betting as soon as possible so that Massachusetts could benefit from the commercial and tax revenues the industry generated.

License fee and tax raise

The idea of state residents driving short distances to neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire to place their bets was another reason for passing legislation quickly, he added.

SD177 would allow for remote betting statewide.

It would also increase both the license fee for operators from $1m to $10m and the tax rate on revenues from 12.5% to 15%. 

The licenses would be valid for five years with a renewal fee of $1.25m.

Other points that will be up for negotiation during the legislative session will be whether to put a limit on the number of licenses and if a ban on college sports betting should be enacted.

Massachusetts is currently tied with 18 other states in 19th position on the Wedge Index of gaming friendliness.

Regulations that would permit online betting with remote registration features would give the state a major boost on the index.

Regulatory lobbying  

With COVID-19 causing lengthy closures and major financial losses for land-based gambling companies online betting and gaming regulation has gained in prominence and momentum across the U.S.

In Massachusetts this has resulted in lawmakers being lobbied by different gambling interests in recent months.

Arguments up for debate center on whether land-based casinos like Wynn Resorts and Penn National should be given priority.

If online operators should be licensed as standalone operators.

In November the state Senate opposed an online sports-betting bill that would have allowed casinos, racetracks and online operators to apply for a license.

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Jake Pollard

Jake Pollard is an experienced journalist and editor who has covered the online gaming and betting industry for many years. He has written for the leading media outlets as well as operators and suppliers in the igaming space. His current areas of focus are wide-ranging and include regulatory developments in the US, emerging markets in South America and how European countries are adapting to a decade of igaming regulation.

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