Massachusetts Legislature

  • House Bill 4879 that would make Massachusetts sports betting legal is moving to the Senate after making it through the House.
  • The bill would have legal sports betting made available at casinos, racetracks, professional sports team venues, and five strictly mobile sportsbooks if the Senate it passed the current draft.

BOSTON – A bill that allows for legal sports betting in Massachusetts passed in the House on Tuesday and will move onto the Senate for approval.

House Bill 4879 took the majority vote with 156 YEAS and 3 NAYS after a number of amendments were mulled over.

The Massachusetts Legislature will adjourn on Friday, giving the Senate a few days to not only hear the bill but to greenlight it to land on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature.

What House Bill 4879 Will Allow

House Bill 4879 would open up retail and mobile sportsbooks in Massachusetts. Of course, there are other parts of the bill that have nothing to do with sports betting that would also pass should MA HB 4879 continue to move forward.

The main purpose of this bill is to allow for economic growth in the Commonwealth in a number of areas as jobs and revenue are two things that are most needed since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Voters in Massachusetts have expressed their interest at being able to bet on sports legally. Today sports betting is occurring illegally in Massachusetts, it’s occurring here, it’s here already,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante during the hearing in the House. “So, in this bill, relative to sports betting, we accomplish four goals; the first, we bring sports betting into the light, and remove it from the illegal market, where illegal gambling appears to foster additional criminal activity. Two, we raise much needed revenue for the Commonwealth in a time of economic crisis. Three, with that revenue, we fund economic empowerment initiatives to create business growth, job creation, and workforce development in some of our most vulnerable communities. And fourth, we protect the Commonwealth’s investments in the gaming and technology innovation industries.”

A 15% tax rate is still part of the package on revenue from wagering on sporting events. During the House hearing, there was some opposition to the 1% tax called the “integrity fee” that would be paid directly to the sports organizations.

However, it was made clear that this 1% add on was not something to make “the rich get richer.” It’s been earmarked for the leagues to put toward heightened security as it’s believed it will be needed to conduct a safer sports betting environment.

Teams like the Boston Red Sox are in favor of this legislation not for that 1% but for the increased fan engagement it would bring in for the franchises which would help them to add to their profit margins.

Legal sports betting for the leagues is more about expanding their fanbase rather than trying to yield actual money from the wagers themselves.

The increased viewership of games would be a byproduct of allowing residents of the Bay State to legally gamble on matchups that would then cause a chain reaction of more financial gains across the board for Massachusetts.

Looking Ahead

The bill was introduced in its new form on July 24. It took two days of real consideration by the House before it passed. There has been chatter that the Senate will be a harder audience to sway but if they could get it done in the same amount of time as the House, then House Bill 4879 would be able to move toward legalization just in time before the session comes to a close.

Governor Charlie Baker has always spoken in favor of a legal sports betting in Massachusetts as long as lawmakers could come up with the proper rules and regulations to operate an industry that works for the Commonwealth.

There is little doubt, with his stance on the topic and the current state of the economy, that he would very likely make sports betting legal if given the chance.

But it’s up to the Senate on whether or not to present him with such an opportunity to give the sports bettors of the Bay State legal, local sports betting options. The session wraps up on July 31 and answers on where MA HB 4879 ends up should be known by then.

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