US Sports Betting Update – Massachusetts senate approves bill to legalize sports betting
Massachusetts is one step closer to legalizing sports betting after the Senate passed a heavily amended bill in Thursday’s session. The bill, S 2844, passed on a voice vote after 18 amendments were made. There are still significant differences between the House passed in July 2021 and S 2844, so a six-strong committee must now meet in a bid to thrash them out. If the House and the Senate can agree a compromise, the resulting bill will go to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker, who had indicated he would sign it into law.
The House wants to impose a revenue tax of 10% on retail sportsbooks and 12.5% on online sportsbooks in Massachusetts. That would be a reasonably friendly environment for operators, potentially leading to a large and competitive market. However, the Senate is calling for tax rates to be set at 20% for retail sportsbooks and 35% for online sportsbooks. That would make Massachusetts one of the least friendly jurisdictions for operators in the country, behind only New York, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
Another sticking point is the number of available licenses. H 3393, the bill that the House passed nine months ago, makes provisions for 11 online sports betting licenses, whereas the Senate bill only has nine. There is also a disagreement over betting on college sports and a potential whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling commercials during sporting events, so there should be considerable legal wrangling ahead.
A Showdown Over College Sports
The House bill passed in Massachusetts would permit betting on collegiate sports. However, the Senate bill does not include betting on college football and basketball, so that is a major battleground. Some members within the Senate are keen on college sports betting. Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Republican for Weymouth, urged colleagues to include betting on college sports, amateur Olympic events and esports to the bill.
O’Connor argued that people in Massachusetts are already betting offshore on college sports and that the legislature needs to take back control. He said that leaving it out would miss “half of the revenue” and “miss the point” of legalization. “College sports represents an enormous sector of the sports entertainment industry,” he said. “If we want to carve out Massachusetts college sports events, I think that’s totally reasonable. To expand this bill and to allow [betting] on college sports, esports and commission-approved amateur sporting events, I think, is imperative “Bettors in Massachusetts are currently betting illegally on college sports, largely in the black market or offshore websites which have no obligation to detect or report concerns regarding the integrity of the games.”
A six-person committee made up of House and Senate members will now convene, perhaps as early as next week, in an effort to reach a compromise. They need to agree on a legislative framework and get a bill to Gov. Baker’s desk before the 2022 session ends on July 31. “There are always differences on complicated pieces of legislation between the House and the Senate,” said Gov. Baker. “My hope would be that they would both work to get something to our desk that we can sign by the end of the session.”
Maine Sports Betting Bill Heads to Governor
Maine could soon join the legal sports betting party after legislation known as LD 585 was taken off the Senate’s Special Appropriations Table. Both the House and the Senate passed the bill last week, and it will now head to the desk of Governor Janet Mills, who will decide whether to sign it into law or veto it. She vetoed a sports betting bill in early 2020, but she appears to be in favor of the current legislation.
Mills wrote to lawmakers this week, urging them to abandon a tribal sovereignty bill and to pass LD 585 instead. “To help us continue to move forward, I ask that LD 1626 remain with the Legislature and that LD 585 be enacted into law while we continue our work together on areas of mutual concern,” wrote Mills. LD 585, which Mills negotiated with tribal leaders, would give the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians exclusive rights to offer online sports betting in Maine, but they could tie up deals with major operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars.
March Madness Powers Strong Performance for Nevada
The sports betting handle in Nevada shot up by 34.7% year-on-year to reach $863.3 million in March. It also represented a 10.6% increase on the February 2022 handle, driven by the popularity of March Madness. Revenue reached $36.9 million. That was an increase of 19.4% compared to February, but it was down 6.2% year-on-year, as bettors made stronger wagering decisions on the NCAA Tournament this time around.
Nevada’s total gaming win for March was $1.35 billion. Sports betting only accounted for a fraction of that at $36.9 million. Slot machines earned the industry $903 million. It was close to a record month for the Silver State, up from $1.01 billion in March 2021, but just short of the $1.359 billion record set in July last year.
Colorado Enjoys Second-Best Monthly Handle
Colorado’s sports betting industry pulled in its second-largest handle in March. Bettors wagered $505.6 million on sports, a 68% increase on the same period in 2021. Of that total, $500.2 million was placed online, along with $5.4 million at retail sportsbooks. It did not match the record of $573.7 million set in January, but it was up 14.8% compared to February.
March Madness accounted for $97 million of the handle, up from $71 million in 2021. However, pro basketball proved even more popular, accounting for $218.4 million of the handle as the Denver Nuggets ended the regular season with a flourish. They have now crashed out of the playoffs following a narrow 102-98 defeat to the Golden State Warriors. Gross gaming revenue for March hit $28.2 million, resulting in $1.3 million in tax revenue for the state.