Aug 2, 2022 - Sports

How Massachusetts sports betting will likely work

Mac Jones, the Patriots quarterback, holds a football and points as he scrambles from Buffalo Bills' defensive end.
Mass. sports fans could soon be betting on Patriots games. Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sports betting could be live in Massachusetts before the end of the year, barring any surprises from the governor and regulators.

Catch up fast: Democrats passed a bill on the matter at the end of a 22-hour session Monday morning and sent it to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

  • The bill allows collegiate sports betting for out-of-state teams, and only allows bets on in-state collegiate sports teams when they're in tournaments like March Madness.
  • If Baker signs it swiftly, Massachusetts will be the 36th state to approve sports betting.

Why it matters: Lawmakers say it should bring in at least $60 million a year in tax revenue, as well as $70 million or more in licensing fees every five years.

The other side(s): Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) said he voted no because he worried about college athletes being exploited and more traffic coming to the Encore Boston Harbor Casino in Everett, where residents already complain about daily jams.

  • Yes, but: Gaming analyst Brendan Bussmann said that limiting collegiate sports wagers only makes it more likely that money is funneled into illegal offshore betting. "No one wins, and no athletes get protected [by] leaving that off the books," he told Axios.

How it works: The state is allowing multiple types of wagers, both in person and via mobile app.

  • That includes proposition bets, like a bet that Bill Belichick will wear his gray Patriots hoodie during a game.

Details: The Massachusetts Gaming Commission could issue up to seven sports betting licenses for mobile apps, along with separate licenses for the state's three casinos and horse racing establishments.

  • In-person sports betting operators would face a 15% excise tax on adjusted gross receipts, while mobile app operators would be taxed 20%.

What they're saying: "There's nothing about this bill that is really breaking new ground, and that's probably a good thing," Chris Grove, a gambling industry analyst and co-founding partner at the venture capital firm Acies Investments, told Axios.

  • While Massachusetts has lost out on tax revenue by not legalizing sports betting sooner, lawmakers have had time to see what works (and what doesn't) in other states.

What's next: Senate Ways & Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) told reporters that the sports betting market could launch in the fall, though that means state regulators would likely have to start issuing temporary licenses to speed up the process.

  • Bussmann predicts the new market will launch in the winter, sometime before the Super Bowl.
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