The state Legislature has begun the race to legalize sports betting before the end of the current session on July 31.
On Thursday, the conference committee began trying to reconcile the major differences between the Senate and House of Representatives bills that would legalize sports betting in Massachusetts.
The conference committee is made up of Reps. Jerald Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz, and David Muradian, and Sens. Michael Rodrigues, Eric Lesser, and Patrick O’Connor.
Many significant differences between the House and Senate bills need to be resolved, with the House bill, in general, being far more lenient and generous towards gaming institutions.
One issue is that the House bill would allow wagers on college sports, while the Senate’s version would not.
The Senate bill has strict rules for sports betting marketing, as well as the use of credit cards, which aren’t in the House version.
One of the biggest differences between the bills is the proposed tax rate for revenue from in-person bets. The House bill would set the tax rate at 12.5%, while the Senate bill would set it at 20%.
The gap is even wider for the proposed tax rate for online and mobile bets. While the House would set the rate at 15%, the Senate would like to set it at 35%.
“The Senate bill is a paternalistic bill. It has all these anti-gaming protections so you don’t get hooked on gaming. But you leave those two things to the black market,” House Speaker Ronald Mariano told State House News Service (SHNS) last month.
In the other chamber, SHNS reported, Senate President Karen Spilka has long been reluctant to legalize sports betting.
However, she told SHNS previously that she would have voted in favor of the Senate’s sports betting bill if it had gone to a roll call vote precisely because it had so many measures to mitigate the risk and harms of problem gambling.
The House bill was originally passed last summer, while the Senate bill didn’t pass until the end of April 2022 — a move which Spilka was criticized for by politicians and analysts.
Both bills legalize sports betting online and in-person for people 21 and older, and put the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in charge of regulating sports betting and licensing parlors in the state.
If a compromise bill is crafted in time, it will go to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for signing. Baker has long supported legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts.
Sports betting is currently legal in more than two dozen states.
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