Anyone who believes that Massachusetts sports betting is dead this year may be correct. Or they could be mistaken.
On Monday, the Bay State’s top state senator said she isn’t counting anything out as a legislative conference committee works to reach an agreement in the remaining five days of the current parliamentary session.
The session concludes on July 31.
“Believe it or not, we’re looking at sports betting, and I hope we do get something done,” Senate President Karen Spilka was quoted as saying in a June 25 story on MassLive.
Pilka’s statements were more upbeat than those expressed by House Speaker Ron Mariano to the press last week. According to MassLive, Mariano described sports betting negotiations as “far apart” last Thursday.
Collegiate sports betting has become a major source of contention. Although collegiate sports betting was endorsed by a majority in the House in 2021, it was removed from a sports betting bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate last spring.
Spilka said allowing wagering on college sports is “up for negotiations, but I really hope that the approach is not an all-or-nothing bill.”
In the last days of the current legislative session, Massachusetts’ three full-service casinos are lobbying hard for sports betting.
The three casinos – MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino (Penn National), and Encore Boston Harbor (Wynn Resorts) – were approved under Massachusetts expanded gambling law passed in 2011 and would be important players in a possible Bay State sportsbook market.
They addressed a letter to Massachusetts state lawmakers on Monday, requesting that sports betting be legalised this week.
The letter underlined that Massachusetts has lagged behind other states that have allowed sports betting since a federal prohibition on state regulation of sportsbooks was overturned in 2018.
“Today, 35 states have legalized sports betting, including the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and no resident of the Commonwealth is more than an hour’s drive from a state where legal sports betting is available,” the letter states.
“As a result, our competitors in these states are now offering a significant amenity and service we are prohibited from offering in Massachusetts.”
The result, the letter states, is lost revenue – both for the casinos and the commonwealth.
“With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, we respectfully implore you to seize on the opportunity to level the playing field in this hyper-competitive industry,” states the letter.
“We remain readily available to share our policy and operational expertise and work with you towards the establishment of a successful sports wagering market in the Commonwealth.”
For several weeks this summer, a conference committee of six state lawmakers, including three senators and three representatives, worked on sports betting legislation.
Over the last year, legalised collegiate sports betting has been a major source of contention between the Massachusetts Senate and House.