Recent comments suggest the House does not plan to budge much on its contested MA sports betting proposal.
House Speaker Ron Mariano cannot figure out the “purpose” of the Senate bill passed in late April, he told reporters after he spoke at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on May 26.
The two pieces of sports betting legislation are in a conference committee to try to work out differences. The legislature has until July 31 to legalize MA sports betting this year.
Mariano: Senate sports betting bill ‘paternalistic’
The Senate bill is too focused on controlling sports betting without helping people with addiction, Mariano said. The total ban on college betting, for example, means bettors will continue to use black-market bookies without options for help they need:
“There’s no bookie I know that’ll check you into a rehab to help you beat your gaming addiction. There’s no bookie in the world that’s going to give you an extension on what you owe because you have a gaming problem.”
Mariano pointed to the legalization of marijuana as an example of his point, saying residents steadily have migrated to the legal market since marijuana was legalized and regulated. The legislature can “apply the same lessons learned to college sports betting,” he said.
Last year, Mariano said banning bets on college sports would probably be a dealbreaker for him. He has not reaffirmed that stance so far but has made his feelings clear that the bill would be much stronger with legal college betting.
MA sports betting negotiations not started yet
Despite the big differences between the bills, the two sides have not yet sat down to negotiate.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues told the Springfield Republican the first committee meeting had not yet been scheduled as of May 27. Rodrigues’ office and other Senate contacts did not respond to requests for a schedule update.
The two sides need to find a middle ground on tax rates and determine the number of available licenses. The Senate also includes some advertising restrictions that could be limiting and possibly not enforceable.
No legal betting not stopping Massachusetts residents
Betting is happening regardless, through legal and illegal channels, while the legislature waits around.
That includes heading to New Hampshire, which took its first legal sports bet in December 2019. The DraftKings-operated monopoly has seen its fair share of Massachusetts business.
Massachusetts residents accounted for 35% of all Boston Celtics playoff bets this year in NH, Mariano said, quoting DraftKings. MA residents also placed 28% of the March Madness bets accepted in New Hampshire, he added.