Massachusetts legal sports betting push comes up short


Massachusetts’ sports betting legalization plans appear to have hit a roadblock, likely delaying passage to September at the earliest.

On Wednesday night, the Massachusetts state Senate blocked the insertion of sports betting language into its version of the economic development bill approved earlier this week by the state House of Representatives.

The House bill, which was approved by an overwhelming margin, would have permitted sports betting via the state’s casinos and racetracks, as well as a handful of online-only operators who wouldn’t be required to partner with a land-based operator to secure a license.

The House bill was also controversial given its favorable treatment of major sports leagues, who would have been permitted to not only demand that betting operators pay to use league-supplied data for in-play betting purposes but the leagues could also enter into revenue-sharing deals with operators, which would have been a first for US betting legislation.

Three senators put forward betting amendments to the development bill but two of these amendments were ultimately withdrawn while the third was rejected. Sen. Michael Rodrigues, who chairs the Ways & Means Committee, said sports betting was something the legislature would eventually tackle “but the time is not now. Nor is this the proper vehicle to do so in.”

MassLive quoted Sen. Eric Lesser, a legal sports betting proponent, saying he hopes the issue is addressed this year but not via legislation directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “At this specific moment, we need to hold.”

The legislature’s formal session ends on Friday (31) but the session could be extended in order to clear the legislative deadwood that piled up due to COVID-19 disruptions. As such, there’s a slim chance that betting could resurface in a standalone bill, although smart money appears to be on nothing happening on this front until the legislature reconvenes after the summer.

News of the legislative setback briefly sent shares of Boston-based betting operator DraftKings sharply down on Thursday, but the shock soon wore off and the shares are currently trading down only 2% from Wednesday’s close.