massachusetts online sports betting

Robert Linnehan

Sports betting took a giant step forward today in the state, as bill H.3977 to legalize Massachusetts sports betting was approved by House representatives.

Members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 156-3-1. It will now be sent to the Massachusetts Senate for discussion.

The sports betting bill received a favorable report from the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means earlier in the week.

Massachusetts Sports Betting License Categories

The bill will provide for three types of sports betting licenses for casinos, racetracks and untethered online sportsbook operators.

Category 1 licenses will be available for state casinos and will allow in-person sports betting and up to three skins for online sports betting. Category 2 licenses will be available for state horse and/or gray hound race tracks and will allow for one skin each for online sports betting and in-person sports betting. Category 3 licenses will be available for untethered online sports betting platform operators that are approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Each license will cost $5 million and will last for 5-years. An initial application fee of $100,000 will be required.

The Commonwealth could see between $70 million to $80 million in initial license fees alone, said Rep. Jerry Parisella (D-6).

Parisella noted that early estimates show Massachusetts will see $60 million annually from sports betting taxes. This figure will likely rise as the state’s sports betting program matures, he said.

The proposed tax rates in the bill for adjusted gross sports wagering receipts are 12.5% for in-person betting and 15% for online sports betting.

Here is how sports betting taxes will be allocated:

  • 40% to the Workforce Investment Fund. Funds will develop and strengthen
    workforce opportunities for low-income communities and vulnerable youth and young adults.
  • 30% to the Gaming Local Aid Fund. Funds will go to townships in the state for local aid.
  • 20% to the Youth Development and Achievement Fund. Funds will be used for providing financial assistance to students.
  • 9% to the Public Health Trust Fund.
  • 1% to the Players’ Benevolence Fund. Funds will be donated to charities chosen by athletes who have participated in some events where sports bets have been placed.

A Dynamic Sports Betting Bill

It’s an “imaginative and dynamic bill,” Rep. Andres Vargas (D-3) said during the hearing, as it includes betting on eSports, one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-9) presented an amendment for the bill, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in retail sports betting,” to give all individuals in the Commonwealth an opportunity to benefit from an entirely new economic industry in the state.

The amendment will allow the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to conduct a study into the feasibility of allowing retail locations in the commonwealth to operate sports wagering kiosks. This option will allow minorities in the state to profit from this new economic industry, Ramos said.

There are no black or brown owned casinos in the state, or black or brown owned sportsbook operators, he said.

As shown by the cannabis and gaming industries, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) does not, and will not, happen organically, he said. Ramos’s amendment was passed by a vote of 159-0.

“I ask that we as a legislative body prioritize DEI for every piece of legislation that comes before us, but even more so when discussing economic policies,” he said.

Collegiate Sports Betting Included in Bill

Here is what’s also included in the bill:

  • Bets on colleges and in-stage collegiate facilities will be allowed. However, in-game and prop betting on college sports will be prohibited.
  • eSports betting will be allowed.
  • Sports wagering operators must use official league data.