Massachusetts may not only legalize sports gambling. The state may eventually become a new hub for online sports wagering.
In January of 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed a bill that would make Massachusetts the second state in the nation (following the lead of online sports betting in Tennessee) to allow online sports wagering that is unaffiliated with land-based casinos.
What MA sports betting could look like
Unlike most bills legalizing sports gambling, Baker’s proposal would ban any bets on NCAA sporting events. Currently, New Jersey is the only state that restricts betting on NCAA events, and that is only on teams from the state or events taking place within its borders.
Baker’s bill would allow residents anywhere in the state to bet from their smartphones or to place live wagers at recently-opened casino MGM-Springfield. The massive Encore-Boston Harbor is expected to open just outside of downtown Boston in Everett in June of 2019, pending approval by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).
The proposal would tax online wagers at a rate of 12.5 percent, whereas bets at live sportsbooks would be taxed at a rate of 10 percent. It is the fifth bill proposed by legislators in the state and one of three bills proposed in January, giving the House options to choose from if it decides to move towards legalized sports betting.
While there is pressure from Massachusetts residents and lobbyists to pass this legislation and compete with the gambling market in neighboring states Rhode Island and Connecticut, the groundbreaking nature of Baker’s proposal is causing some delays.
What still needs to happen?
In April of 2019, the Massachusetts House of Representatives delayed Baker’s bill (which included an overall proposal on the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year), signaling a more deliberative approach towards the issues surrounding sports gambling.
The MGC is also investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn that could delay the opening of the Encore-Boston Harbor Casino. The commission fined Wynn Resorts $35 million in April for the company’s role in covering up those accusations.
Officials of the Massachusetts State Lottery, which is currently only an in-person business, assert that the Lottery should also be allowed to accept online wagers if the bill is proposed. This adds a wrinkle that the House will have to consider.
There are powerful groups within the Bay State that are lobbying for the passage of this law, including Boston-based DraftKings. The owner of the largest Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platform and online sportsbook, DraftKings has a vested interest in legalizing an industry that is currently thriving through illegal avenues.
Massachusetts legislators took a similarly slow approach in 2016 when deliberating on the legality of DFS.
Projected Massachusetts sports betting launch date
While sports betting bills will be up for discussion during the legislative session in May, the House appears to be in no rush to make a decision. The House has until November of 2019 to pass any of the three proposals into law. If legislators decide to ratify Baker’s bill, there could be legal online sports betting available in Massachusetts sometime in 2020.