Massachusetts sports betting: Lawmakers reach deal that includes some collegiate betting at end of session

Massachusetts residents who want to legally bet on their favorite Boston sports teams may soon have to stop driving across state lines.

Beacon Hill lawmakers successfully hammered out a compromise on a bill to allow sports betting β€” including on some college sports β€” in the commonwealth early Monday morning, as the final hours of formal sessions stretched well past Sunday’s official midnight deadline.

The result came after Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano have publicly sparred in recent days over contentious components of the closely watched bill, particularly whether or not to allow betting on college sports.

Both chambers are expected to pass the bill and send it to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk later Monday. Sports betting is now legal in 30 states as well as Washington, DC

Baker has previously committed to signing a sports betting bill into law.

Lawmakers have been hesitant to say exactly when gambling could begin in Massachusetts, though Mariano noted early Monday that casinos are prepared but now must await formal regulations.

“We missed a lot of the big events, but I think Encore and MGM in Springfield will open almost as soon as the laws are signed,” Mariano told reporters.

Gambling is allowed at out-of-state colleges and universities, but not in Massachusetts, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodriguez told reporters Monday as he outlined the rough outlines of the compromise.

However, there is an exception for schools in Massachusetts that are “lucky enough” to enter March Madness, Rodriguez cited as an example.

“The Senate bill came out with no college at all β€” the House had a full college,” Rodriguez said. “That’s how things are done, is to reach a compromise.”

Spilka, in the final week of formal lawmaking, urged Mariano to stop viewing the Senate bill’s omission of collegiate sports as a deal breaker in the negotiations.

“I would like to see sports betting wrapped up and approved at the governor’s desk before the end of the session,” Spilka said during an interview with WBUR on Tuesday. β€œThe speaker said … if college sports betting isn’t in it, there’s no point in doing it. I would hope and ask the speaker to change that position and not take an all or nothing approach.

But Mariano — who has repeatedly expressed concern that refusing to allow collegiate sports betting could escalate black market activity — on Friday openly criticized Spilka.

“I find it amazing that the Senate president asked me to be flexible and I could make the same request to her,” Mariano told reporters.

Early Monday morning, Mariano struck a more diplomatic tone with his Senate counterpart.

“The fact that she was concerned about the comments of several college presidents, we thought maybe removing that would speed up the process and get us to a deal,” Mariano said, referring to the college presidents and athletic directors who objected of sports betting.

It’s unclear how much revenue legalized sports betting in Massachusetts would collect. House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said the figure could reach $60 million if all collegiate sports betting were included in the final settlement.

Meanwhile, the cost of completely eliminating college sports betting could reach about $25 million, Mariano said.

In addition to collegiate betting, the chambers were also divided on sports betting licensing parameters, tax rates and advertising limits.

Wagering comes with a “very competitive tax rate” of 15 percent in person and 20 percent through mobile apps, Rodriguez said.

Upholding a provision of the Senate bill designed to curb problem gambling, House and Senate negotiators agreed that credit cards would not be allowed for gambling. But another preventative measure – a ban on advertising sports betting during live broadcasts – a whistle-to-bhistle ban – did not emerge from the negotiations.

“We were concerned about the unconstitutionality of the issue,” Michlewitz said. “We had a back and forth on that.”

Boston-based DraftKings celebrated the passing of the sports betting bill.

“We are thrilled that our home state has acted to protect consumers, create jobs and increase revenue in the community,” DraftKings CEO Jason Robbins said in a statement Monday morning. “We hope the Legislature will quickly pass this and Governor Baker will sign it into law.”

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