BOSTON (SHNS) – Allowing Massachusetts adults 21 and over to gamble on professional sports in person and online would generate significant, but not groundbreaking, revenue for the state, a key senator said Monday as he highlighted a bill highlighting the product of is almost three years of study and deliberation.
"If done right, this is about bringing sports betting into the light of day, legalizing it and monitoring it in real time so that potential violations or problems can be quickly identified and remedied, and it is really about partnership between these operators and the Gambling Commission, to ensure the entire process is carried out as safely as possible, ”said Senator Eric Lesser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
While 25 other states, including neighboring Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York, have already allowed gamblers to place legal bets on sports, Massachusetts has been considering whether to legalize bets in a similar fashion since the US Supreme Court in May 2018 decided that this applies almost nationwide.The ban on sports betting was unconstitutional and gave states the opportunity to legalize the activity.
“Massachusetts has acted quite cautiously, especially when compared to some of our regional counterparts in the states near us. When it comes to that, I think that was probably right because now we could really learn what many states, especially states in the Northeast, have been doing in recent years, "Lesser said on Monday.
The Senator's bill (SD 2365), one of about a dozen similar bills filed by last week's deadline, would put sports betting under the auspices of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and create three different types of sports betting licenses on which to wager Casinos and the slots salon are possible, on live horse tracks or simulcast centers as well as via mobile or online platforms. Bettors would need to be at least 21 years old and physically present in Massachusetts.
The bill also includes consumer protections to protect against problem gambling, similar to the provisions introduced for casinos when Massachusetts expanded gambling in 2013, e.g. B. the ability for gamblers to add themselves to an exclusion list and the obligation on the Gambling Commission to regulate compulsive and problematic gambling. According to Lesser, one of the most important consumer protection measures is the ban on betting with a credit card.
“The vast majority of people just want to have fun. Betting on your favorite sports team is a form of recreation. But of course we know that there are people who might have addiction problems, might have problems, ”he said. "We don't want to see a situation where someone who swipes their finger over their iPhone because of an addiction or some other problem is collecting massive credit card bills that they can't pay back."
Prop betting – betting on things other than the outcome of the game, such as how many strikeouts a pitcher will record in a given game, or which soccer team will win the first coin toss – and in-game betting would be allowed by Lesser, but the Gambling Commission would have to hold a hearing on these types of bets and put some guard rails in place. No bets will be accepted for individual athletes using wearable technology or if the bet contains personal medical information or player biometric information.
“This kind of came up in discussions with players and with players' associations. For example, it could soon be possible to have a jersey that transmits a person's heart rate or pulse or blood oxygen level in real time to someone who could then place a bet based on this biometric information, ”Lesser said. "We had the feeling that one bridge was too far."
The state-owned casinos and slot machines – MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville – could apply for a Category 1 license that would allow them to offer personal sports betting and accept bets through up to three mobile apps. It would cost a minimum of $ 1 million to apply, then $ 2.5 million if a license is approved, and an additional $ 1 million in license renewal fees every five years.
In all cases, application fees would go to the Gambling Commission to cover the cost of investigating applicants and ongoing regulation, while license fees and renewal fees would go to the state's general fund. Lesser's bill would allow the Gambling Commission to increase the registration fees.
Category 2 licenses apply to existing racecourses and simulcast centers. The license would allow personal sports betting and a partnership with a mobile app, but the facility would have to maintain a circuit, place sports bets on that circuit, and host at least 50 live racing days per year.
Although there have been several plans to revive thoroughbred horse racing here in recent years – including a recent push by the New England Horsemen & # 39; s Benevolent and Protective Association and a potential racing facility in Sturbridge – 2014 was the final year of any significant Number gave of live racing days outside of Plainridge Park and the track in the Slots Salon was the only company applying for a racing license for 2021.
The filing fee for a Category 2 license would also be at least $ 1 million and the license fee would be $ 1.5 million, with a renewal fee of $ 500,000 every five years.
Lesser's bill would also allow up to six Category 3 licenses, which would be available through an "open and competitive selection process" to businesses wishing to offer sports betting via a mobile app or other digital platform approved by the Gambling Commission. These licenses would be much more expensive: at least $ 2 million to apply, $ 7.5 million to license, and $ 3 million to renew every five years.
These online-only operators would also be taxed at a higher rate. Lesser proposes to tax the income from sports betting of category 3 licensees and daily providers of fantasy sports at 25 percent. Category 1 and Category 2 licensees with a physical presence that could in turn create local jobs would be taxed at a 20 percent tax rate.
Lesser said Monday he doesn't have an accurate estimate of the annual revenue his bill could generate, but he thinks anywhere in the $ 30 million to $ 35 million range is "probably correct". Baker's budget for fiscal year 2022 assumes the state will generate $ 35 million in sports betting revenue between July 1 and June 30, 2022.
Opponents of legal sports betting have questioned whether this relatively low annual turnover is worth the public health and social costs of bringing sports betting out of the shadows. By comparison, the state has raised an average of $ 20.7 million in tax revenue from its casinos and slot machines every month since Encore Boston Harbor opened in 2019, and is well on its way to raising about $ 250 million annually .
"It's an important amount of money that we need to capture. It won't be a panacea for government budgetary issues, and it certainly won't be something that you can balance the state budget on. Sports betting as a means of balancing the budget or sports betting as a means To look at generating significant revenue for the Commonwealth is just not correct, "Lesser said." It will be meaningful and helpful, but it will not be anywhere near as big as what (advanced gaming) was or what the lottery was, for example right now, which is over a billion dollars a year. "
The Massachusetts Lottery has been watching legislators' moves to expand betting with great interest. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and lottery officials have argued for years that the lottery needs the ability to sell its products online to compete with casinos, daily fantasy sports, and possibly soon sports betting. The lottery generated net income of $ 986.9 million in its last fiscal year, which will be used to fund local government aid to communities.
"If sports betting is available online, the lottery must also be available online," Goldberg said in 2019, when the legislation was in the early stages of considering sports betting. "That is the problem that is evolving."
Lesser said Monday that he does not necessarily agree that the two activities should be combined, although he personally supports "working towards some level of online products for the lottery".
"I think that's exactly the way in the world," he said. "Other states like Michigan have shown, in my opinion, that this can be done successfully and in a way that protects our brick and mortar retailers and small convenience stores, which is also a high priority."