By Matthew Medsger
It’s a good day for gambling in Massachusetts.
“I’m incredibly proud that today, and after years of House-led efforts to authorize legal sports wagering in Massachusetts, the Legislature has acted to bring the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Ron Mariano said in Monday morning release.
Lawmakers had just wrapped a marathon session to conclude their formal meetings for the year, pushing compromised legislation out hours past a self imposed midnight deadline.
The long awaited change in the state’s betting laws was held to the last minute by the House’s plan to legalize gambling on all sports, while the Senate, acting on the advice of the state’s major universities, hoped to exclude college betting.
What emerged to be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk is a bill which will allow residents to gamble on professional and some college events, but not on games involving Bay State colleges, except when the Massachusetts school is participating in a tournament.
“I’m proud of the protections for consumers and our college athletes included in this bill, and I’d like to thank Speaker Mariano and the House conferees for their partnership,” Senate President Karen Spilka said.
The law will establish a 20% tax on bets made via a mobile device and a 15% tax on bets made in person at a casino or other venue. It is expected to bring in over $70 million in licensing fees in the first five years and could generate more than $30 million in annual tax revenues.
The legislation creates both a “Workforce Investment Trust Fund” and a “Youth Development and Achievement Fund” which will benefit from the revenue generated by the taxes and licensing fees.
The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health’s Executive Director, Marlene Warner, said the law will need to come with some support.
“Legalizing sports betting brings an urgent need for additional protections. If signed into law, more Bay Staters, many of them new players, will start gambling online. Innovative approaches to responsible gambling remain critical for encouraging safe play and offering support to those who need it,” she said.
Boston based DraftKings welcomed the news their host state would join their booming industry.
“We are thrilled that our home state has acted to protect consumers, create jobs and grow revenue in the Commonwealth,” CEO Jason Robins said in a release.
A section of the law would direct the legislature to study the impact of further expanding access to sports betting by allowing bets to be placed at bars and restaurants.
Brandt Iden, head of US Government Affairs at Sportradar, which provides sports data to the MLB and NBA, said that demonstrates some foresight by lawmakers.
“By authorizing the gaming commission to perform a study on the impacts of expanding sports betting to bars and restaurants, I think we’ll quickly see even more opportunities for sports fans of the commonwealth to participate in this regulated entertainment activity,” he said.
The law does not provide a timeframe for implementation.