Massachusetts Senate passes bill legalizing betting on pros

April 29, 2022 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts state Senate has passed a bill to legalize in-person and online betting on professional sports in the state, a move that according to chamber leadership would generate $35 million in tax revenue annually.

The bill passed on a voice vote late Thursday differs significantly from a sports betting bill passed in the state House of Representatives last summer that would also allow wagers to be placed on collegiate events.

Universities in the state that play NCAA Division I athletics had previously expressed opposition to college sports betting.

The Senate’s version includes safeguards that address gambling addiction, such as limits on the use of a credit card to place a sports wager, limits on advertising, and the establishment by the state Department of Public Health of a compulsive gambling assistance program.

“I am proud that the Senate has taken a thoughtful and balanced approach to legalizing sports betting,” Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said in a statement. “This legislation is consumer-focused and responsible, while promoting economic development.”

The bill would allow sports betting at the state’s three existing casinos, and establishes a process to license six other businesses to offer in-person and online wagering at a retail location. Those businesses would be required to have community support, promote responsible gambling, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion.

In addition to barring betting on collegiate events, the Senate bill bars wagering on e-sports, amateur sports or athletic events including high school and youth sports, and Olympic-related competitions.

The next step is setting up a conference committee to reconcile differences between the Senate and House bills. The House voted 156-3 last July to legalize sports betting.

Current Republican Gov. Charlie Baker supports sports betting, saying it is clear that many Massachusetts residents places wagers in neighboring Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, where it is legal.

Sports betting is legal in 32 states and Washington D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 ruled that banning sports betting was unconstitutional.