With less than a week of formal sessions left on Beacon Hill, a highly anticipated bill legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts may emerge from conference committee after all.
Senate President Karen Spilka on Monday once again expressed optimism that House and Senate negotiators could reconcile differences in their bills. Her comments came days after House Speaker Ron Mariano separately lamented that the chambers were “far apart” on disputed provisions — most notably, permitting wagering on collegiate sports.
Believe it or not, we’re looking at sports betting, and I hope we do get something done,” Spilka said unprompted as she rattled off a list of pending legislation lodged in conference committee, including mental health reform and tax relief, under the crunch of Sunday’s end-of-session deadline.
The Ashland Democrat declined to say whether she expects collegiate sports betting would be included in a compromise bill.
That’s up for negotiations, but I really hope that the approach is not an all-or-nothing bill,” Spilka told reporters Monday afternoon at the Massachusetts State House.
Unlike the House, the Senate did not allow collegiate wagering in its bill, forging an omission that Mariano has described as a deal breaker.
But Spilka on Monday did not rule out the option of allowing some collegiate sports betting, such as wagers involving out-of-state games and teams while shielding those entities in Massachusetts.
Spilka compared the disagreement over sports betting to a voting reform bill that emerged from conference committee after months of negotiations. To the Senate’s dismay, the reconciled VOTES Act left out same-day voter registration, though elected officials are prepared to lobby for that provision in the next legislative session, Spilka said.
We’ll raise it again,” Spilka said. “I tell my colleagues: There’s always another day.”
Sports betting is already legal in 30 states, as well as Washington, D.C. As of last week, it appeared Massachusetts would not join the trend, instead relegating betting — especially on collegiate sports — to the black market, Mariano signaled.
Mariano, asked whether he thought sports betting would reach the legislative finish line, told reporters: “Realistically, I don’t know. I don’t know. We’re far apart.”
Meanwhile Gov. Charlie Baker, a supporter of authorizing sports wagering in Massachusetts, offered a vague prognosis on the sports betting bill last week.
“You know, it’s hard to tell at the end of session sort of what is or what isn’t going to get through the gate at the end,” Baker said during an interview Thursday afternoon on GBH News’ Boston Public Radio. “It is certainly on the minds of people in the Legislature ... People are asking questions about it — people are still discussing it.”