Senate and House Locking Horns on Sports Betting Legalization

The issue of sports betting legalization in Massachusetts is hanging in limbo after the latest action by the House of Representatives who rejected the amended bill passed by the Senate.

Earlier, the Senate approved the Endure Act, the program of economic development and job creation, albeit excluding the language in the bill referring to sports wagering legalization and online ticket sales, before returning the amended bill to the House.

The $455 million economic bill was approved by the Senate, after several attempts to keep the sports wagering texts in the bill proved unsuccessful. One proposal for amendment was rejected, while another two were withdrawn without being subjected to votes, before the Senate approved it unanimously.

Regarding the texts for sports betting, the original bill would have legalized retail and online sports betting, and the online sale of lottery tickets. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission would have been tasked with the oversight of the licensing process for sports betting operators, while the Massachusetts Lottery Commission would have been enabled to utilize different promotional strategies to encourage people to purchase lottery tickets, including offering of prepaid gift cards.

Before being passed 156-3 through House and sent to Senate, the bill was amended to double up the initially proposed 15% tax on sports betting gross gaming revenue, but the latest rejection by the House, July 30, put the bill aimed at supporting businesses and creating jobs in limbo.

Conference Committee Tasked to Find a Final Proposal

As both House and Senate insisted on their amendments, the two legislative chambers of the legislature in Massachusetts appointed a committee of conference, aiming to smooth out differences and find a compromise. The Senate tasked Senators Eric Lesser, Michael Rodrigues and Patrick O’Connor to negotiate with the House committee representatives on the issue.

On behalf of the House, Aaron Michlewitz, Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Donald Wong would have to negotiate with their House counterparts a final proposal to be put forward to voting by lawmakers from both legislative chambers of the state legislature.

The current legislative session was set to end July 31, but due to several legislative delays caused by the ongoing health situation regarding the virus outbreak, the House approved an order to extend the session beyond its original end date.

Whether the originally jammed into the economic bill sports wagering legislation will remain in the compromised bill is unclear, but there is a chance it would still be a part of it when it reaches the desk of Governor Charlie Baker to be signed into law.

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