Lawmakers in Massachusetts have reached a compromise that would legalize online and retail sports betting in the state.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the House and Senate groups in the state government approved a bill that would make Massachusetts the 31st state in the country to legalize some form of sports betting, according to a tally from the American Gaming Association.
“I am proud to announce that the Sports Betting Conference Committee has reached an agreement on legislation that will legalize wagering on professional and collegiate sports in Massachusetts, bringing the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to MA,” Democratic House Speaker Ron Mariano said in a tweet.
The bill comes with a ban of betting on in-state college sports teams, like Boston College and the University of Massachusetts, except during competition when the schools play in a national tournament like NCAA March Madness, Massachusetts state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said.
The bill will subsequently go to the desk of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is expected to sign it.
“There are many things that would make me happy before I leave office, if I have the chance to sign them,” Baker said back in January. “One of them would certainly be a sports betting bill.”
Baker has lamented the fact that Massachusetts residents were still betting on sports, just in neighboring states where it was legal — Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut all currently have some form of legal sports wagering.
It has been over four years since the Supreme Court ruled that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) doesn’t make sports gambling a federal crime, clearing the way for individual states to offer legal wagering.
Since the ban was lifted in 2018, Americans have legally bet more than $125 billion on sports.
How popular will sports betting be in Massachusetts?
“The sports betting market in Massachusetts will be intense, competitive and lucrative given the reasonable tax rate (20%) on mobile wagering,”Bill Speros, Senior Betting Analyst at bookies.com wrote to MarketWatch in an email. “In terms of potential revenue, think New York and divide those numbers by 3 or 2 1/2. The prohibition against in-state college teams is merely a blip. No one is upset that they cannot bet on Merrimack College hockey.”
Jason Robins, CEO of sports betting operator DraftKings,
said the Boston-based company is “thrilled” about the decision. “We are hopeful that the legislature will move to quickly pass this bill and Gov. Baker will sign it into law,” Robins said in a statement.
Assuming Baker signs the bill into law, when will Massachusetts residents be able to place their bets?
The governor’s office did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment on this story, and the timeline is unclear at this point. However, if Massachusetts follows the rough timeline that other recent states had, the date of legalization to the first week of wagering could be eight months, which is the average time to launch after a bill’s passage, the Action Network notes.
Eight months from now would be during the start of one of the most popular betting events of the year: March Madness.