House Speaker Pushes For Massachusetts Sports Betting Vote In Senate

Massachusetts Speaker of the House Ron Mariano is more than ready for Massachusetts sports betting to come to a vote in the state Senate. 

In fact, the state lawmaker from Quincy told Baystate Business on March 2 he is “frustrated” no action has yet been taken by the upper chamber on sports betting legislation passed by the House last summer on a vote of 156-3.

That bill, H.3993, has been holed up in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since the House passed it on July 23. 

“No one’s more frustrated than I am,” Mariano told the radio program. “We missed the Super Bowl and we’re about to enter into March Madness. And now, every state around us has sports betting.”

Mariano’s comments, which are echoed by Gov. Charlie Baker, refer specifically to legal sports betting. The only state bordering Massachusetts without legal sports betting today is Vermont, although a proposal to legalize online and lottery-based sports betting in that state could potentially become law this year.

The Massachusetts Sports Betting Hold Up On Beacon Hill

Mariano resisted pressure from Baystate Business host Joe Shortsleeve to call out Senate President Karen Spilka for inaction on the House sports betting proposal during last week’s interview.

But the House Speaker was clear that the holdup is not in the House. 

“It’s extremely frustrating at the amount of money we’re leading on the table by just this stubborn reluctance to take the bill up,” Mariano said, adding “it takes two people to negotiate” in a nod to his Senate counterpart.

Spilka said in 2021 that she isn’t sure the Senate has the bandwidth to take up sports betting anytime soon. The Ashland Democrat has been mum about this issue so far in 2022, even as some fellow senators push for a vote. 

States neighboring Massachusetts, meanwhile, are drawing sports bettors away. New York has become a leader in mobile sports betting since online operators launched on Jan. 8, with its mobile sports betting handle reportedly topping $1 billion already. Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire sports betting is also alive and well. 

New Hampshire alone draws about 22 percent of its sports betting handle from Massachusetts residents, Mariano told Baystate Business.

Sports Betting Support In Massachusetts Senate

Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, is proposing legal betting on professional sports and athletics as the lead sponsor of S.269. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee with H.3993 despite Lesser’s best efforts to bring the bill to a vote. 

Lesser, who is both a member of the Senate Ways and Means panel and current candidate for Lt. Governor, told MassLive on Jan. 4  he would like to see sports betting legislation passed before this fall.

Other Senators voicing support for legal sports betting are Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, and Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton. Timilty, who appeared on Baystate Business on March 2 before Mariano, said he is asked by his constituents “every single day” when Massachusetts will legalize sports betting. 

He didn’t seem to know but hinted Spilka might. 

“It’s up to the Senate President to bring legislation to the floor for a vote, and hopefully the Senate President will bring it up for a vote this current year,” said Timilty.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Massachusetts Casinos. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.