SENATE PASSES SPORTS BETTING LEGISLATION
Bill includes strong consumer protections
The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday (4/28/22) passed An Act regulating sports wagering which would legalize commercial sports betting in Massachusetts. The bill, which would allow for in-person and online sports betting, also includes several consumer safeguards and addresses gaming addiction and recovery. This legislation is estimated to generate $35 million in tax revenue annually.
"I am proud that the Senate has taken a thoughtful and balanced approach to legalizing sports betting," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "This legislation is consumer-focused and responsible, while promoting economic development. I am grateful to the many, many Senators who added their voices to the discussion on sports wagering, to the Senators whose proposals we built upon, and to Chair Rodrigues and the Senate Ways and Means members and staff for their work to reach consensus on the bill we voted on today."
"With the Senate's passage of this bill, we lay a comprehensive foundation for a competitive legal sports wagering marketplace that will maximize revenue for our Commonwealth, promote equitable economic development, and establish the strongest consumer protection measures in the country," said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. "I want to thank Senator President Spilka for her invaluable leadership, along with Senators Lesser, Crighton, Feeney, Gomez, Brady, Creem and Tarr for lending their voices and contributing ideas and input throughout this process, and all of my colleagues in the Senate for helping to shape the final bill that the Senate has endorsed today."
"This bill has been carefully crafted to include strong consumer protections and encourage a competitive market for fun and responsible betting," said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. "Its passage would bring Massachusetts into line with over two dozen states who have legalized sports betting since the 2018 Supreme Court decision. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and my House counterpart, Representative Parisella, for working collaboratively to get this legislation passed."
The legislation would allow for bets to be placed on a professional sport or athletic event, such as the World Series or Stanley Cup, and establishes a licensing process that is inclusive of the state's existing casino and slot parlor industry. In addition to sports wagering being offered at existing casinos, the bill contemplates six licenses to be awarded through a competitive process to companies which promote job-growth, responsible gambling, diversity, equity and inclusion, and which have community support. Those six licenses would be permitted to operate both in-person at a retail facility and online wagering. Wagering would not be permitted on electronic sports, amateur sports or athletic events including high school and youth sports, Olympic-related competitions, or collegiate sports. All leading Massachusetts Division 1 universities had previously weighed in against college sports betting.
Mindful of the harmful impacts of compulsive gambling and risks of addiction, the Senate proposal is intentional in its efforts to promote responsible gambling and takes steps to protect consumers. To that end, the bill would prohibit the use of a credit card to place a sports wager and would require the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish a compulsive gambling direct assistance program.
Additionally, companies licensed to offer sports betting would be required to train employees to identify problem gambling and create plans to address instances of problem gambling, which would be submitted to the state's Gaming Commission. In addition, the bill would ensure that consumers could cash out and permanently close accounts for any reason or create self-imposed limits on wagers.
To further protect consumers, this legislation would include limitations on advertising for sports betting. The bill would prohibit unsolicited pop-up advertisements and certain promotional items, and institute a whistle-to-whistle ban on television advertising during live sporting events. Similar to the state's cannabis law, the bill would limit advertising on television and online where less than 85% of the audience is 21 or older.
With legislation relative to sports betting having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a conference committee will be established to reconcile differences between the two bills.