The chances of Massachusetts even addressing sports betting this year, let alone legalizing, appear much longer after the Senate‘s budget decisions this week.
The Senate again rejected the addition of sports betting to its fiscal 2021 budget proposal, which is months overdue. Sen. Bruce Tarr submitted an amendment legalizing sports wagering, just as he did in an economic development bill over the summer.
Tarr, the Senate minority leader, proposed legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts with retail and online betting. The amendment was rejected without a roll call vote.
After the hearing, Senate President Karen Spilka told the State House News Service sports betting isn’t an immediate priority:
“Right now, the focus is going to be on conference committees, resolving the budget, and COVID. We’ll see though.”
Stalling Massachusetts sports betting legalization
If the House had its way, MA sports betting would be in a much better position.
The House passed its version of an economic development bill 156-3 this summer with sports betting included. The bill would have allowed seven online sports betting licenses for the casinos, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and two others.
Penn National and Wynn Resorts, two of the state’s three casino operators, recently penned a joint letter against that idea. The casinos argued they deserve control of most licenses in the market.
The Senate eventually decided the economic bill wasn’t the time to handle sports betting. Sen. Michael Brady, who also submitted a betting amendment for the economic bill, was told sports betting would be addressed later in 2020.
Brady later said he expects sports betting to be addressed by the fiscal 2022 budget if not this year. Discussions for that budget should begin early next year.
Senators lament lost revenue
Not everyone was happy to see sports betting shot down Wednesday night, according to SHNS.
Sen. Patrick O’Connor talked about the “basically free money” from sports betting. Sen. Marc Pacheo said the state is losing revenue it’s going to need.
A fiscal 2021 budget filed by Gov. Charlie Baker included $35 million in sports betting revenue for the state.
What can MA residents do?
Massachusetts residents have two legal options if they’re willing to drive to another state. Both New Hampshire and Rhode Island offer legal sports betting through mobile apps.
Rhode Island changed its laws over the summer as well, meaning both states let Massachusetts residents sign up and place bets from their cell phones as soon as they’re within that state’s border.
Either border is about an hour’s drive from downtown Boston.