Massachusetts Sports Betting Compromise Seems Near, According to Senate President

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
Massachusetts Sports Betting Compromise Seems Near, According to Senate President

Good news has arrived for those who support Massachusetts sports betting

While the Senate has largely been at a stalemate since the last initiative for legal sports betting in Massachusetts was proposed this past spring, it now appears that all parties involved may be on the verge of reaching a compromise. It isn't yet clear what concessions will be made or what forms of legal sports gambling will make it through, but the rumblings coming out of the current legislative sessions in July are nothing if not encouraging.

"I know the conference committee is working on that, too," Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka recently told reporters. "We have, what, six or eight conference committees going on?. It would be wonderful to resolve all of them. I’m hopeful.”

This optimism is not without an expiration date. At this writing, the Massachusetts legislative sessions are scheduled to end in just a few days. That means the state could feasibly see no resolution reached on the sports betting issue. 

What are the hangups government officials are trying to overcome? Why is Massachusetts making a push to green light sports betting so staunchly now? And when might we see legal sports betting officially come to Massachusetts? We've got all the pertinent answers below.

Massachusetts Sports Betting Still Faces Uphill Battle

Among the issues facing the current Massachusetts sports betting bill, the biggest obstacle appears to be how the types of gambling that will be legalized.

Many want the state to approve both in-person sports betting and retail wagering online and via mobile betting apps. Spilka, like many other Democrats, seems to support that open-access route. This would allow Massachusetts to hand out sports betting licenses not only to their casinos but also to commercial sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and many others.

Those who oppose this model do not necessarily oppose legal sports betting altogether. In fact, the vast majority of Massachusetts seemingly approve of sports betting legalization—much like their constituents. But there is a somewhat large faction of Senate and House members who want to see the state restrict legal sports betting to on-site transactions. These people also tend to support in-person bets taking place exclusively at casinos rather than sporting venues, bars or card rooms.

Allowing sports betting without an online presence is far from unprecedented. Many other states have done the same. The logic behind it isn't hard to understand, either. Many Senate and House members are worried about funneling too much of the sports betting revenue outside the state. Commercial online sportsbooks don't have a physical presence within the state, so they are only contributing to tax revenue.

In-person casino gambling, on the other hand, creates jobs while opening up other streams of revenue. If only on-site casino and sports betting are legalized, it will incentivize the building of resort-style properties that offer everything from hotels to extra entertainment, dining, and shopping options.

What Does a Sports Betting Compromise Look Like?

We presently have no intel on the specifics of any sports betting compromise within the Massachusetts Senate. With the primary goal of simply getting the bill to the governor's desk, experts have speculated officials such as Spilka will relent and support a structure that does not allow online sports betting. 

Others, meanwhile, believe the state could find a middle ground by charging commercial online sportsbooks a higher tax rate—something like north of 20 percent. This way, Massachusetts will offset some of the (theoretical) money they're losing by letting companies outside the state operate within it. 

Commercial sportsbooks have naturally pushed against this idea. But they have accepted similar terms elsewhere, most notably for sports betting in New York. If the sports betting market is large enough, companies will pay to have a digital footprint. As a state that's home to the New England Patriots (NFL), Boston Celtics (NBA), Boston Red Sox (MLB) and Boston Bruins (NHL), Massachusetts meets the criteria of a market that can increase the tax rate.

State Officials Under Pressure to Approve Massachusetts Sports Betting

If you're wondering why Massachusetts sports betting is such a hot-button issue now, you're not alone. The answer to this urgency, however, lies in the rest of the country.

Sports betting is now legal in more than 30 states, as well as Washington, D.C. This puts Massachusetts and every other state that has yet to join the fold in the minority. And on top of all that, Massachusetts is quite literally surrounded by states with legal sports betting, and government officials are starting to worry about all the money that's walking out the door.

“We’re losing out to our neighbors,” State Representative Jerry Parisella, the House chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, told reports this summer. “So we’re really working hard to make this happen.”

When Sports Betting May Come to Massachusetts

Everything coming out of Massachusetts suggests there will be a sweeping approval of sports betting in some form—if not all forms. That's fantastic for gambling enthusiasts. 

It's not all good news, though. There is another reason for the sudden urgency in Massachusetts: the length of time it'll take to roll out legal sports betting.

As Parisella and Spilka have both noted, it will be at least a year before the state's sports betting infrastructure will be operational. That puts even the most optimistic start dates toward the end of 2023, if not at the start of 2024.

This is all the more reason for the Massachusetts Senate to work out a sports betting compromise in the coming days. If they don't, the state may not be ready to roll out any type of legal betting before 2025. And while people who live in Massachusetts can still set up an account at a reputable site from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, there's no denying the wait for in-state wagering is increasingly frustrating.

Here's hoping there's now an end in sight.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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