Three sports betting bills filed in Massachusetts

Bills that could see online and retail sports betting introduced in Massachusetts have been introduced ahead of Friday's deadline for proposals to be discussed in the 2019 legislative session.


Massachusetts took three steps towards legalised sports betting in some form, after a trio of bills were introduced by lawmakers on Wednesday.

Separate documents that proposed legalising online and retail betting, allowing only existing casinos to offer betting and the commissioning of a gaming impact study were filed ahead of Friday’s deadline for the 2019 session.

The most ambitious and detailed is SD 903 put forward by Sen Brendan Crighton, which would legalise both retail and mobile operations in Massachusetts. The state has a population of 6.9m, and is home to major sports teams such as the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox, as well as daily fantasy giant DraftKings.

SD 903 would see sports betting gross revenue taxed at 12.5%, with operators charged an initial fee of $500,000 followed by a $100,000 annual renewal fee. Like New Jersey, licensees would need to be based at in-state establishments.

Crighton’s plan includes a ‘bad actor’ clause, with no licence granted to any operator that is currently or previously has been partnered with business involved in any type of illegal offshore betting. It also features rules on advertising, integrity requirements and potential fines for violations of the law.

Sen James Welch’s SD 882 is less detailed but outlines plans to enable Massachusetts casinos to begin sports betting operations.

The bill includes a 6.75% tax on sports betting revenue for both Category 1 and Category 2 licensees. Category 1 licensees are the state’s largest casinos, with Category 2 establishments having no table games and fewer than 1,250 slot machines.

Finally, Sen Bruce Tarr’s SD 908 would not legalise sports betting but would establish an 11-person commission to consider the impact of legal sports betting in Massachusetts.

The commission would conduct a comprehensive review of sports betting, including economic development, consumer protection, taxation, and legal and regulatory structures. A report would be filed within 180 days of the passage of Tarr’s act.

All three bills are yet to be assigned to a Senate committee to be examined further.

Legal sports betting in the state could generate annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $408.6m according to figures published by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission early last year.

The White Paper on Sports Betting said this was a figure based on both retail and online betting being allowed. The lowest projection, which would see betting only allowed within casinos, would generate GGR of just €127.4m.

Last year a bill filed by Sen Eileen Donoghue designed to regulate online gaming, daily fantasy sports and sports betting failed to progress.