DKNG Stock – Sports betting finds new life on Beacon Hill | News
BOSTON — The state fumbled the ball three years ago when sports betting was legalized. Now it finally may be getting in on the action.
A plan to regulate and tax sports betting that’s working its way through Beacon Hill combines about a dozen bills that had been languishing in legislative committees.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 156-3 to authorize the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue at least 11 sports betting licenses to casinos, race tracks and mobile platforms.
Under the plan, wagering would be regulated by the state Gaming Commission, and operators would be taxed at 12.5% for retail wagers and 15% for online sales.
Operators would pay a $5 million licensing fee every five years.
Unlike previous plans, the House proposal allows in-state betting on college sports.
Rep. Jerald Parisella, chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, said Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports in neighboring states.
“They’re either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it’s legal, or they’re also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet, or they’re also going to a bookie,” he said in remarks ahead of Thursday’s vote.
“But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts,” he said.
Parisella estimates the move will generate $60 million to $70 million in tax revenue annually, and about $70 million every five years from licensing fees.
Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, said many of his constituents who head to New Hampshire to bet on sports “would rather place these bets in their homes and in their own state and would rather have any revenue collected going towards benefiting their home state.”
The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on the proposal.
Lawmakers debated similar bills through the years, but none won approval. Many died in the Senate, which has been reluctant to approve sports betting.
“Legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts would represent a major development, and the Senate is committed to understanding all of the issues involved in making this change before acting,” Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said in a statement this week.
The latest effort has broad support from legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Baker, who filed his own sports wagering proposal.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring sports gambling in nearly all states except Nevada. The case involved New Jersey, which fought for years to allow sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.
Since then, at least 30 states including Washington, D.C., have passed sports wagering laws.
Boston-based DraftKings, the MGM Springfield casino and professional sports franchises such as the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics are all angling for a piece of the market, when sports betting is finally legalized in Massachusetts.
Griffin Finan, DraftKings’ vice president of government affairs, urged lawmakers “to move quickly to establish a regulated market that will create jobs, protect consumers, and support the many Massachusetts businesses that are losing customers to neighboring states.”
“The time to act is now,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to work with both branches to get a final bill over the goal line.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]