Last Updated on May 8, 2020

Massachusetts Sports Betting

With the New England Patriots playing at the Kansas City Chiefs this upcoming weekend, one Massachusetts senator is looking to also create some buzz: A bill to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts.

That senator is Brendan Crighton, and his bill would allow for Bay State casinos and online giants such as DraftKings and FanDuel to apply for licenses to operate in the state. Let’s remember DraftKings was founded in the state.

DraftKings Sportsbook Well Positioned

This is the first bill of its kind in the U.S. where the sports betting licenses are “decoupled” from current state casino gambling licenses. Not only is Crighton on this bandwagon, but Governor Charlie Baker has a plan he is rumored to bring up soon and Rep. Dan Cullinane has filed a bill in the House to kick off this upcoming two-year period.

On Tuesday, Baker was quoted about this issue saying, “I think when the Supreme Court decision was issued last summer I think I said that we were going to take a good look at our options and if appropriate work with our colleagues in the Legislature on that one going forward and that’s still our position.”

Crighton picked up this issue from Eileen Donoghue who worked with daily fantasy sports prior to becoming to town manager of Lowell.

“From those conversations, we came up with what we think is a bill that will take sports betting out of the shadows, but provide responsible consumer protections and still maintain the integrity of the sports we all like to watch,” Crighton said.

Massachusetts Sports Betting Details

Under this bill, the Gaming Commission would be in charge of issuing licenses, and the applicants would be limited. For example, MGM Springfield, Suffolk Downs, DraftKings, Wynn Resorts and DraftKings main rival, FanDuel.

For licensing costs, existing brick-and-mortar establishment would pay $500,000 and online/mobile entities would pay $1 million dollars.

With projections of between $50 and $70 million annually in sports betting revenue, there would also be a 12.5 percent tax on profits.

With eight states including the neighboring Rhode Island already in the sports betting market, as well as roughly a dozen more in the process, Massachusetts may be a bit late to the party, but the Northeast will be given more options.

“Every day there are new legislatures out there filing bills and considering things so really it’s time for us to be deliberate but also have a sense of urgency to get something passed this session,” Crighton said.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he did not want to rush this issue, he did say he is having Rep. Joseph Wager, the Economic Development Committee Chairman, to look into it. Crighton did not check in with anyone in the House prior to the bill. Because of that, he is expecting there to be plenty of “robust debate”, he said.

Massachusetts Colleges & Universities Exempt

Like most states, the prohibition on betting on sports in Massachusetts was surrounding colleges were concerned about the integrity of their games.

“We heard some concerns from institutions of higher education, in terms of the integrity of their sports. They’re not the billion dollar operations that professional sports leagues are. They’re paid athletes. So we kept Massachusetts college teams exempt. You can’t bet on a Massachusetts college team,” Crighton said.

Sports Betting Integrity Fees?

Cullinane and Crighton’s bill proposals do of course differ. Cullinane has fees for sports leagues to collect one quarter of one percent of the states total bet handles as well making sports betting mobile/online companies be tethered to establishments.

Meanwhile, Crighton doesn’t believe the fee is necessary as leagues have not reached out about that and thinks mobile and retail should be separate.

“We certainly see that as the future of gaming and if we are going to bring people into legalized sport betting and off of these illegal platforms, we’re going to need to have that component,” Crighton said.

Just think of the amount of bets the state would get right now with the Patriots being underdogs in Kansas City?

Michael Rathburn
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