On Thursday during a public meeting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced that it will host a series of roundtables on sports betting in the coming months. The sessions will seek to gather information from key parties on the future of a sports betting market in the Commonwealth.
Thursday’s meeting of the MGC covered several topics, including proposals to create a new sports betting division within the Gaming Division in anticipation of the possible signing of a bill that sits on the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker.
The Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act was passed on Monday and sent to the governor. He has 10 days to sign or reject the bill. If he signs it, it will make Massachusetts the latest state to legalize sports betting. The MGC indicated that it cannot forecast a timeline and launch date until after Gov. Baker makes his decision.
“This isn’t something that will happen overnight,” said MGC Commissioner Bradford Hill, who worked for years as a state representative to pass sports legislation.
Roundtables To Include Sports Betting Operators
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein explained that for its first roundtable, the commission will invite representatives of racetracks, such as officials from Encore Boston Harbor Resort, Plainridge Park in Plainville, Raynham Park, and Suffolk Downs in Boston.
Future roundtables may include sports betting operators, representatives from casinos, parimutuel wagering facilities in Massachusetts, and other stakeholders.
The MGC will model the roundtables on similar meetings that were held for COVID safety measures at gaming facilities in the Commonwealth in 2020 and 2021.
The commission has five members. MGC Executive Director, Karen Wells, indicated that her staff is already beginning the process of formulating draft applications, and vendor license rules. She also requested approval to hire a director for a new Sports Betting division.
“The work of getting sports betting launched, should it be enacted into law, will require a dedicated director to guide the process smoothly,” Wells said.
Judd-Stein pointed to fact-finding trips to out-of-state sports betting conferences by MGC members as helpful in guiding a plan for public hearings, roundtables sessions, and the work needed to responsibly launch sports betting in the Commonwealth if the governor signs the bill.
“We have been busy preparing, which puts us in a position [that places us] ahead of the game, and that’s the good news,” Judd-Stein said. “We won’t compromise the integrity of gaming, and the quality of the product we are regulating.”
What Would the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act Do?
Lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties came together in July and passed a bill that would legalize sports betting in Massachusetts after years of debate and failed efforts. The bill was sent to the office of Gov. Baker to be signed into law. Previously, Gov. Baker has expressed his support for sports betting.
The bill would legalize both online sports betting and retail sports betting, making Massachusetts the 31st state to legalize that activity, plus the District of Columbia.
Under the proposed law bettors must be 21 years of age to open an account with a sportsbook online or to place a wager at a retail sportsbook.
There are some limitations in the language of the bill. Massachusetts bettors would not be able to bet on in-state college games. The only exception would be tournament play, such as March Madness.
There are two tax rates established in the proposed bill. Fifteen percent would be levied on net revenues from in-person wagers at retail operators. Online sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetRivers, would be taxed at a 20% rate.
While some states have allowed for kiosks to be placed in certain locales to facilitate sports betting, the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act does not. However, the bill calls for a study to seek the feasibility and impact of such future activity.
Similarly, compromise seems to have removed another possibility that many observers were hoping for. The Act will not permit retail sportsbooks at sports venues. That means if Gov. Baker signs the bill into law, we won’t see a sportsbook at Fenway Park.