On April 28, Senator Jason Lewis joined his Massachusetts Senate colleagues to pass An Act regulating sports wagering, which would legalize commercial sports betting in Massachusetts. The bill, which would allow for both in-person and online sports betting, includes several strong consumer safeguards and addresses gambling addiction and recovery. This legislation is estimated to generate $35 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
“I appreciate that the state Senate has taken a careful and thoughtful approach to the issue of legalizing sports betting in the Commonwealth,” said Lewis. “The Senate’s bill will enable Massachusetts to join the majority of other states in permitting legal sports gambling, but ensure that our state has very strong consumer protections and seeks to prevent and mitigate problem gambling and addiction as much as possible.”
The legislation would allow for bets to be placed on a professional sports event, such as the Super Bowl or World Series, 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 that have local community support that promote the following: job growth and local economic development; responsible gambling; and diversity, equity and inclusion. Those six licensees would be permitted to operate both in person at a retail facility and through online wagering. Wagering would not be permitted on electronic sports, amateur sports or athletic events like high school and youth sports, Olympic-related competitions or collegiate sports. All leading Massachusetts Division 1 universities have previously expressed their strong opposition to allowing college sports betting.
Mindful of the harmful impacts of compulsive gambling and risks of addiction, the Senate bill is intentional in its efforts to promote responsible gambling and takes strong steps to protect consumers. To that end, the bill would:
- Prohibit the use of a credit card to place a sports wager.
- Require the state Department of Public Health to establish a compulsive gambling direct assistance program.
- Require companies licensed to offer sports betting 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.
- Ensure that consumers could cash out and permanently close accounts for any reason or create self-imposed limits on wagers.
- Place restrictions on marketing and advertising of sports betting, especially to prevent predatory marketing aimed at youngsters. 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. Like the state’s cannabis law, the bill would limit advertising on television and online where less than 85 percent of the audience is 21 or older. This would be the strongest standard in the country for preventing the targeting of youngsters.
As a similar bill related to sports betting had previously been passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a Conference Committee will be established to reconcile the differences between the two bills before the legislation is sent to the Governor’s desk.