The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed An Act regulating sports wageringwhich 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.
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. 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.