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Momentum continues to build for Massachusetts legal sports betting

9th April, 10:07

The legality of sports betting in the state of Massachusetts is certainly gaining steam, in spite of the sports world doing dark.

There's no guarantee that recent progress towards Massachusetts legal sports betting will reach the finish line in the coming months, but momentum continues to build toward that very outcome. If lawmakers are able to get official approval, Massachusetts would join states such as New Jersey in offering those 21 or older the ability to wager on professional and collegiate sporting events within state limits.

There's little question regarding intent. Ever since the Supreme Court toppled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) back in May 2018, several top Massachusetts lawmakers have had their sights set on bringing legal sports betting -- both in-person retail locations and online -- to the state. Such intent makes sense given official estimates indicate that it could bring an additional $20 million in revenue.

Unlike other states, however, which have moved more swiftly to greenlight legal sports betting, Massachusetts politicians have worked a bit more judiciously in an attempt to learn from the missteps of others. The pace has picked up in recent weeks.

Bill H.4559, which is considered to be a culmination of prior legislation to make Massachusetts sports betting a reality, made its public debut in late February. The bill's passing ultimately feels like it's simply a matter of time given Governor Charlie Baker's public desire to bring legal sports betting to his state.

Baker's stance is quite different than that of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who's been publicly against green-lighting New York online sports betting as his state continues to lose potential revenue to neighboring New Jersey sportsbooks.

As for H.4559, included within the bill is a comprehensive plan that outlines stipulations, which will shape the state's sports betting operation.

The operator-friendly 10% tax rate for retail betting locations and a 12% tax rate for online operators, which rivals those of other states offering more advantageous terms, should serve to create a fertile legal betting landscape.

Let's take a closer look at what H.4559 means for the future of Massachusetts legal sports betting, including what will be offered, who will be able to offer it, and, of course, when it will be offered.

Let's start with the big picture. Those who are at least 21 years of age and located within the state limits of Massachusetts will be able to legally bet both in-person and online on professional and Division I college sports.

Division II and Division III college sports will be off-limits along with individual player props for DI events. For instance, while bettors would be allowed to wager on a professional player's statistical performance in a given contest, similar options will not be available for players participating in college football and college basketball contests.

H.4559 also bans wagering on eSports, fantasy sports, and Olympic events.

It's expected that standard single-game wagers, parlays, props, and live betting options will be permitted across several popular (and not so popular) sports.

Here's the short of the situation: three Massachusetts casinos along with race tracks and the state's slot parlor will be able to operate physical retail locations, while also handing out skins to established online operators. This means that locations like Encore Boston Harbor (Wynn Resorts), MGM Springfield (MGM), and Plainridge Park Casino (Penn National Gaming) are each expected to offer onsite wagering while also teaming up with notable online betting providers.

Of note, Massachusetts lawmakers are seeking reputable online operators that have previous DFS experience and already function in multiple states. These qualifiers mean it's extremely likely that FanDuel Sportsbook and Boston-based DraftKings Sportsbook are major players in the online landscape.

Meaningful momentum toward the launch of Massachusetts legal online sports betting began in 2019 and has gained further steam in recent weeks. H.4559 is expected to have enough support to pass prior to the Massachusetts General Court's July 31 deadline, but there are some potential roadblocks standing in the way.

Namely, the coronavirus pandemic has (rightfully) diverted a significant amount of lawmakers' time, energy, and attention.

Considering the spread and fallout of COVID-19 remains a fluid situation, there exists some uncertainty over whether or not new legislation will be a priority in the coming weeks and months.

If the bill takes a backseat, the launch of Massachusetts sports betting could be delayed by as long as a year. Still, there's optimism that the bill could pass through the appropriate channels, bringing sports betting to the state by late 2020 or early 2021.

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