MA Representative Brad Hill

  • Representative Brad Hill spoke to LegalSportsBetting about the potential to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts now that the legislative session has been extended through January.
  • A legal sports betting market in Massachusetts estimates a projected $30-$50 million in annual revenue for the economy of the Commonwealth.

BOSTONThe Massachusetts Legislature voted both in the House and Senate to extend their session through January, leaving much more time for MA sports betting legalization to be discussed.

The original schedule had the Legislature adjourning for the year on July 31. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and all of the lulls as well as havoc it’s caused for legislation and the economy, too many key topics were unable to be debated at length in the allotted time period.

Now, with this extension, sports betting in 2020 for the Commonwealth is once again a real possibility.

Speaking With Representative Brad Hill

Representative Brad Hill spoke with LegalSportsBetting on Wednesday about the possibility of a legal sports betting industry in Massachusetts now that the session has been extended. Hill has been a sponsor on numerous bills that would make wagering on sports legal in the Commonwealth.

He believes that House Bill 4559 has the best chances at legalizing the gambling of sporting events in the Bay State. The last time this bill saw any real action was back in March prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Now that sports are up and running, Rhode Island and New Hampshire continue to rake in some dollars through their programs. It’s a missed opportunity for the Commonwealth if we don’t do anything. I think House Bill 4559 would be the easiest avenue right now because there is language in the bill already and all we need to do is convince the Senate to agree to that language,” said Hill.

With the way that the bill is currently written, House Bill 4559 would make sports betting legal in Massachusetts for both retail and mobile/internet platforms.

While it has not officially been given the House’s seal of approval, it would seem as though they are likely to pass MA HB 4559 once it goes through all of the proper channels.

The real issue lies in getting the Senate on board with the bill, as they just nixed all sports betting language from House Bill 4887 that initially passed in the House.

The Senate took that part out before allowing it to move forward. Hill is unclear as to why the Senate struck sports betting from that bill.

“We’d have to ask the Senators or the leadership why they didn’t accept sports betting in House Bill 4887 and what their plan is. But again, I think there are two avenues to this. The one that’s currently being debated and then of course the budget for the free-standing bills that have been put out. But I would think, from what I’m hearing, it probably wouldn’t take up a free-standing bill, so it would either have to be done through this bill (MA HB 4559) or done through the budget,” said Hill. “That would be a reason to bring us back, we’re not just coming back, we’re coming back for specific reasons is my understanding. This bill that we’re currently discussing and the budget would be reasons to come back.”

Hill says it’s his hope that they convince the Senate to get sports betting in Massachusetts through MA HB 4559. Otherwise, they’ll need to discuss it during budget talks that will occur in October and could go well into November, causing further delays in any progress.

“It would be my hope that we could convince the Senate leaders and the Senate members to adopt the language that we’ve put in there, in the House and vote on it,” said Hill. “But this extension absolutely gives us the opportunity to be able to convince the Senate to put in some language in some sort of vehicle so that we can try and get sports betting going here in Massachusetts. I think, again, it’s a wasted opportunity for us to wait as long as we have waited and to continue to wait.”

What Happens Now?

Presently, there is no set date for House Bill 4559 to be heard. While the bill is in the conference committee, they could change the language within the proposal.

The House has projected an annual revenue between $30 and $50 million generated from a legal sports betting market per Hill. Should the committee change any of the language within MA HB 4559, it would need to reheard and voted on from square one.

If wagering on sporting events becomes legal in the Bay State, Hill expects a launch within the current fiscal year that will end on June 30, 2021.

“Sports betting would launch during this fiscal year, for sure. I think you know the DraftKings of the world and the casinos of the world, they have the infrastructure all set and ready to go so it wouldn’t take long for wagering on sports to be up and running,” said Hill.

He continues to advocate for a legalized sports betting industry for Massachusetts. Plenty of sports bettors inhabit the area because there are so many great professional sports teams to root for and wager on.

And now, more than ever, the revenue is needed for the state because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve always felt that legal sports betting would be helpful to Massachusetts revenue-wise and now we are looking at a possible $6 billion decrease in overall combined revenues, so any dollars that we can collect through new programs, I think would benefit Massachusetts. You know, someone said ‘well you may not collect what you think you’re going to collect’ and I said ‘even if we collect a dollar it’s a dollar more than we had before,” said Hill.

The Boston Red Sox as well as other organizations in the state have spoken in favor of legalizing the gambling on sports.

Governor Charlie Baker is an advocate for the pastime as well. They all realize how lucrative a market it is and how it’s happening in the state whether or not it’s regulated.

With neighboring states gaining profits from the industry, they are also taking money from the people of Massachusetts that travel there to wager. Until the Commonwealth can make sports betting legal, this will be a continued occurrence. But Hill is hopeful that legalization of gambling on sports can be done in the Bay State.

“The extension does give us the opportunity, for it (MA HB 4559) to still be in play,” said Hill.

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