Massachusetts sports betting bill awaits governor's signature after passing through legislature

Massachusetts is poised to join the sports betting game after the state legislature came to an agreement early Monday morning that will allow licensed sportsbooks in the Commonwealth to offer wagering on professional and amateur sports with some restrictions.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who has expressed support for sports betting legalization, has 10 days to act on the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act, which passed by a vote of 36-4.

"I am proud to announce that the Sports Betting Conference Committee has reached an agreement on legislation that will legalize wagering on professional and college sports in Massachusetts, bringing the immense economic benefits of a legal sports betting industry to [Massachusetts]," Ron Mariano, speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, tweeted at approximately 5 a.m. ET Monday.

Previous versions of the legislation included bans on betting on collegiate sports and advertising restrictions, which caused much debate and prolonged the process. On July 21, Mariano told reporters that the sides were "far apart." But the House and Senate came to an agreement Monday on a bill that resembles the approach of many of the states that have authorized sports betting in recent years:

  • Online and retail wagering will be allowed.

  • Betting on events involving in-state colleges like Boston College is not permitted, unless the teams are taking part in a "collegiate tournament."

  • Bettors must be 21 to place a bet with a licensed sportsbook and may not use a credit card.

  • Sportsbooks will be taxed 15% on net revenues from in-person wagers and 20% for online wagers.

The bill also would allow a sports governing body to enter into a commercial agreement with a sportsbook and "share in the amount wagered or revenues derived from sports wagering on sporting events of the sports governing body." Sports governing bodies would not be required to obtain a license to participate in such revenue-sharing partnerships.

The legislation includes an initiative to study whether betting kiosks are appropriate for restaurants and bars, which could include professional sports stadiums and arenas. Retail sportsbooks at professional sports venues like Fenway Park also have been discussed, but not included in the initial bill.

"They're trying to come up with a sports betting construct that makes sense for the state. Some other states have granted those rights to teams or venues to have an in-person sportsbook there. In this case, we weren't especially surprised," Dave Friedman, senior vice president of government affairs for the Boston Red Sox, told ESPN. "I think the data indicates that most consumers are expected to be betting on mobile devices, not necessarily placing a bet at the window of an in-person sportsbook. At the end of the day, we talked about those issues. We suggested it would make sense to have an in-person sportsbook at a venue, but we're very pleased with the final bill."

In a statement, Jason Robins, CEO and co-founder of DraftKings, which is headquartered in Boston, thanked the bill sponsors and said the company is "thrilled" that the legislature came to an agreement "to protect consumers and grow revenue in the Commonwealth."

"We are hopeful that the legislature will move to quickly pass this bill and Governor Baker will sign it into law," Robins said.

Thirty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have launched legal sports betting markets since a 2018 ruling by the United States Supreme Court opened a path for all jurisdictions to authorize wagering.