Massachusetts lawmakers reach agreement on sports betting

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Wagering on college sports, which is a sticking point in negotiations, will be allowed (with an important difference).

2018 DraftKings New Jersey Sportsbook Wayne Parry/AP File Photo

Although the deadline has technically come and gone, Massachusetts lawmakers reached a deal to legalize sports betting in the early hours of Monday.

After going back and forth on the issue for more than a year after the House and Senate passed widely divergent sports betting bills, the two were able to iron out differences in a conference committee to find a compromise bill (H 5164).

“Proud to announce that the Conference Committee on Sports Betting has reached agreement on legislation that would legalize professional and collegiate sports betting in Massachusetts,” House Speaker Ron Mariano tweeted shortly after 5 a.m.

What was agreed?

Update: The text of the bill has been published and can be found here.

According to Boston Globe reporter Samantha J. Gross, the deal will include:

  • Professional and college betting, excluding public schools
  • Bets on in-state college players will be allowed if they are part of an NCAA tournament, according to Michael Silverman of Boston Globe
  • 20% tax rate for online betting, with 15% tax rate for retail/in-person betting
  • There is no advertising ban
  • Credit cards cannot be used to fund betting accounts (but debit cards are allowed)
  • Existing gaming halls, casinos and racetracks in the state will be able to apply for a sports betting license (which includes a $5 million application fee) and partner with two mobile sports betting platforms, according to WBUR
  • In addition, seven mobile sports betting platforms will be available

What should happen now?

Technically, the legislature imposed a July 31 deadline, but extensions were agreed, and the last formal session — which began before the deadline — was allowed to continue. This allowed a deal to be reached.

Once the bill is out of conference committee, it will still need to be formally voted on and pass both the House and Senate. (Update: The House and Senate “passed” the bill and did passed from both cameras).

The bill now heads to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, and he will have 10 days to sign it into law. Baker is expected to sign it off without a hitch after indicating in several places in the past that he supports the legalization of sports betting.

When can mass betting start?

Obviously, everything depends on the final details, including (and especially) Governor Baker’s signature.

If the agreement becomes official law, it will require the implementation of a new regulatory framework, review/approval of sports betting applications and a host of other procedural changes before real bets can be placed.

But according to Massachusetts Sen. Michael Rodriguez, there is optimism that sports betting can begin in time for the upcoming football season.

“Let’s hope,” he told reporters.

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