The six lawmakers tasked with reconciling two very different approaches to legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts got to work Thursday afternoon, and there’s no shortage of people keen to share their thoughts on what’s on the conference committee should focus on.
Reps. Jerald Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian, and Sens. Michael Rodrigues and Eric Lesser crowded Thursday in a hybrid format (Rodrigues and Parisella were in the State House together while others attended remotely) to begin, to smooth out the numerous discrepancies between the two branches’ Betting Acts (H 3993 and S 2862) with the aim of creating a compromise version that could pass the House and Senate before the July 31 deadline. Senator Patrick O’Connor, who completes the conference committee, was not visible on the livestream during the roughly two minutes that the meeting was open to the public and press, before lawmakers voted to move the talks behind closed doors.
“We probably hear more about sports betting from our constituents than anything else, so I look forward to reaching a compromise with you, your Senate colleagues and my House colleagues,” Parisella said after Rodrigues opened the meeting.
The conference committee, which was formed on May 19 but only started its work on Thursday, has some important problems to solve. The House Sports Betting Act would allow betting on college sports, but the Senate does not. The Senate bill includes severe restrictions on sports betting advertising, marketing and the use of credit cards that the House bill did not include. And industries opted for very different tax rates — income from in-person betting would be subject to a 20 percent tax in the Senate bill and 12.5 percent in the House bill, while monies from online or mobile betting would be taxed 35 percent under the Senate and 15 percent percent in the House of Representatives.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the power to legalize sports betting in 2018, 35 states — including neighboring Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York — and the District of Columbia have approved sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. Thirty states and DC have started accepting bets. Meanwhile, Bay Staters continue to place bets by traveling across state lines or using an illegal bookmaker or offshore betting site.
Since the Boston Celtics began their playoff run against the Brooklyn Nets on April 17, people in Massachusetts have searched for offshore sports book Bovada more than Boston-based DraftKings, which offers legal betting in nearby New Hampshire and Connecticut . a Google Trends analysis shows.
On the Google Trends 0-100 scale of popularity for search terms, “Bovada” averaged a score of 49 during the Celtics’ run to Banner 18, while “DraftKings” averaged a score of 45 over the same period. The peak day for DraftKings searches was May 18, a day after the Miami Heat took a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. The peak day for searches for “Bovada” was May 29, the day of the last game of the same series.
“Today, sports betting in the Commonwealth is actively taking place through illegal and unregulated channels and on websites that already have a firm grip on consumers. These illegal operators offer little consumer protection, have detrimental effects on the Commonwealth’s legal gaming industry and are depriving Massachusetts of significant tax revenue,” wrote the iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA Growth) in a letter sent Wednesday to both the six conference attendees. “Massachusetts legislation should be viewed in the context of competing in the illegal offshore market. Successful regulation will help move customers away from the illicit marketplace and provide them with an industry accountable to Massachusetts regulators and consumers.”
The national organization of 33 companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, said they “strongly believe it[s] that compromise is achievable on all fronts” of the disagreements between the two branches and, more often than not, encouraged lawmakers to stick with the House’s approach to these issues.
Daniel Wallach, the co-founder of the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s sports betting and integrity program, published an op-ed on Wednesday in which he and co-author John Nucci outlined how “the approaches taken in other states are similar to the policy disagreements they offer workable solutions for members of the conference committee when trying to resolve their differences.”
Regarding collegiate betting, Wallach and Nucci proposed that the Massachusetts conference committee settle on a “compromise that has been struck in nearly every state that has attempted to restrict collegiate sports betting” by allowing wagering on collegiate competitions only permitted where not, include state colleges or college games played within the borders of Massachusetts.
“An absolute ban is not necessary. It wouldn’t stop betting anyway — it would just send Massachusetts residents to any number of contiguous states (like Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island) betting on Massachusetts colleges or, worse, offshore Allow websites that lack any consumer protection,” they wrote in Forbes. “Furthermore, it would prevent any domestic surveillance of such bets and would leave regulators (and the colleges and universities themselves) completely in the dark about bets being made on these games and unable to detect suspicious bets.”
As for the number of mobile sports betting licenses – the House bill would allow for an unlimited number of mobile sports betting licenses, while the Senate bill would allow only nine mobile licenses, one for each of the three casinos in the state (one of which is a slot machine). Salon), the rest will be awarded through a competitive bidding process – Wallach and Nucci say between 16 and 20 online licenses would be more in line with other states of a similar size.
They also recommend that the conference committee examine how other states have addressed many of the same issues, such as advertising restrictions, tax rates and more.
“In short, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. For every single problem there are solutions that have been tried and tested in other jurisdictions,” Wallach and Nucci write.
Officials from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association met with two of the conference attendees, Parisella and O’Connor, late last month to express the organization’s concerns about the Senate Sports Betting Act and specifically the Senate’s strict restrictions on sports betting advertising.
“We hope that the final version of the bill will support the local news, weather and entertainment we provide by eliminating harmful advertising provisions,” said Mass. Broadcasters Association, from which many members depend on advertising revenue. tweeted.
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