Momentum Building For Massachusetts Sports Betting Legalization

State representatives will hear two bills Thursday

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one step closer to legalizing sports betting.

According to multiple sources, state legislators will hear two bills this Thursday — S.269 and H.3974 — and there are rumblings that several lawmakers in high positions want to do “whatever it takes” before the legislature takes its summer break.

This news definitely is a step in the right direction on the heels of last month’s five-hour virtual hearing on sports betting. State politicians, casino executives, sportsbook operators and representatives from the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics all lobbied for legalization on June 17, but at that time, there were too many cooks in the kitchen with over 20 sports betting bills being batted around.

Cutting down from 20 to two now means that legislators aren’t playing.

“This is the best sign in a long time,” sports betting reporter Ryan Butler told NESN. “There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a step in the right direction and positive momentum.”

If approved by the House, Senator Eric Lesser’s bill (S.269) will move to the Senate, where it could be scheduled for another vote. The growing sentiment around Beacon Hill is that state senators are much more willing to talk turkey this time around.

Lesser’s bill does not legalize college sports betting.

The second bill (H.3974) is a redraft of legislation that was originally filed by Representative Dan Cahill. According to State House News, this bill would allow wagering on the outcome of college sports contests, but not on performances of individual athletes. For example, you would not be able to bet on Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s passing yards.

H.3974 would allow casinos, slot parlors and horse tracks to apply for licenses to take in-person wagers and have between one and three mobile skins. Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino would undoubtedly line up to pay the $100,000 application fee and $5 million fee for a five-year license to join the sports betting party.

In-person bets would be taxed at 12.5 percent with mobile wagers a tick higher at 15 percent. An additional one percent tax would be instituted for bets placed on events in Massachusetts and distributed between the host venues for “sports wagering security and integrity.”

It’s impossible to know the exact timeline as far as the state taking its first legal sports bet, but an optimistic target is October for the second month of the NFL regular season. I’m inclined to think that Jan. 1 or the Super Bowl is way more realistic. Either way, today’s news is positive.

Buckle up, everybody.

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