- The 2020 Massachusetts state budget does not include sports wagering tax revenues.
- With no budget allocation, analysts believe sports wagering may not be legalized in MA this year.
- There are 19 different sports betting bills up for debate in the current legislative session.
BOSTON – Massachusetts seemed primed to legalize sports betting sometime this year, but that roadmap/timeline has hit a snag: In the state budget currently being debated in Congress, there is no allocation for revenues realized from legal sports betting.
Though Massachusetts is not yet a gambling powerhouse, the state has been expanding its gaming interests in recent years.
Sports betting is easily the most popular form of wagering (though it is much less profitable than slot gaming). The recent wave of legalization has made the pastime seem inevitable as the state moves to make its new casino and racino venues more attractive to local players.
Massachusetts has long relied on surrounding states’ casino venues to feed the gambling habits of its residents. To date, there is only one gambling location in the state, a racino. State law allows for a total of three casinos and a slots parlor.
The second of these casinos, the Encore Boston Harbor, is still under construction and has not yet received its actual gaming license (which is pending before the conclusion of an ethics review of owner Wynn Resorts).
This and other Massachusetts properties would benefit greatly from sports betting, which is now seen as more or less dead for the current legislative session given its budgetary exclusion. State Rep. Bradford Hill (R-4) is frustrated with the perceived setback.
“Other states around us have already implemented [legal sports betting] and we are losing revenue to those states. We need to have this up and running sooner rather than later so that we can take full advantage of these upcoming sports events that will take place in the fall.”
Hill, of course, is referring to the NFL season, which is viewed as the de facto deadline for legalization in states where tax revenue is the chief consideration.
Professional football wagering makes up nearly one-third of a US sportsbook’s yearly revenue as measured in Nevada, but that number is expected to eclipse the 50 percent threshold when offshore books are added to the mix.
How Many Sports Betting Bills Are In Play?
Despite the fact that the Massachusetts budget has no allotment for sports betting revenue, Massachusetts actually has the most sports wagering bills currently active on any state floor.
For the 2019 congressional session, Massachusetts legislators have introduced a whopping 19 separate pieces of sports wagering legislation.
By the most recent count, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has submitted 11 such bills, while the Massachusetts Senate has submitted eight of them.
These bills range from full-on legalization to baby-step initiatives like establishing study committees, task forces, and “special commissions.”. With so many bills floating around, it’s impossible to say which ones have the most traction at this time.
To date, none of the proffered bills has been debated or discussed in its respective chamber, and the clock is running out on the window in which to do so.
There is still a puncher’s chance that sports wagering will be legalized in Massachusetts before the end of the year, but the smart money is that such will be delayed for at least one more legislative cycle.
Andy has been writing professionally for nearly two decades, with the last three years being dedicated to his primary passions: sports wagering news and gambling industry analyses. A walk-on punter, Andy has a particular interest in professional football, baseball, and horse racing betting. Come early May, you can always catch Andy – clad in all white, mint julep in hand – on Millionaires Row at Churchill Downs. In his dreams.