Charlie Baker Introduces Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill

Massachusetts Sports Betting - MGM Springfield Sportsbook

MGM Springfield would have plenty of room for a world class sportsbook.

Gov. Charlie Baker supports legal sports betting in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Charlie Baker’s administration announced Thursday it plans to file “An Act To Establish Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth,” which would legalize sportsbooks at Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Racino.

The bill also would allow Massachusetts sports bettors to place bets using their smartphones, tablet computers, desktops, and laptops. To place sports bets, a person would have to be inside the borders of Massachusetts.

Friday is the deadline to file An Act To Establish Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth“.

The Baker administration said legal sports betting would generate $35 million in tax revenues during fiscal year 2020. That estimate only accounts for direct taxes related to sports betting, though.

MGC White Paper on Sports Betting

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) published a white paper last March which estimated that sports betting and online gambling would generate approximately $45 million in combined tax revenues for Massachusetts.

Intrastate online gambling remains a possibility for Massachusetts, though the greater potential revenues of interstate poker looks like it will be banned by the federal government in 2019. The US Department of Justice released an opinion earlier this week which stated interstate online gambling of any kind is illegal.

That leaves single-state online casinos, poker rooms, and bookmaker betting. While the $45 million estimated in the white paper might be lowered if Massachusetts cannot join the Multi-State Internet Gambling Association (MSIGA), the economic impact of sports betting is not measured only in direct winnings from the sportsbook.

Sportsbooks’ Impact on Casino Revenues

Sportsbooks draw new customers into the resort. These customers might play casino table games or slot machines. If not, they might rent hotel rooms, eat at restaurants, go to the nightclub, or enjoy food and drink in the sportsbook itself.

Each of these activities increases the casino’s bottom line revenues, though they are not counted as direct sportsbook revenues. Thus, the tax revenue gained by Massachusetts would be higher than the estimates.

Cathy Judd-Stein Heads the Gaming Commission

On Tuesday, Governor Baker appointed a new head to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission: Cathy Judd-Stein. The MGC will have licensing, regulatory, and enforcement responsibilities over sports betting and online gambling, if it passes in the legislature.

The bill does not contain an integrity fee, which the major sports leagues like the NBA, MLB, and NFL had proposed. Increasingly, individual states appear to be listening to their gaming operators over the league commissioners. The leagues are likely to shift their lobbying efforts to the U.S. Congress.

At present, “An Act To Establish Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth” does not allow simulcasting venues like Suffolk Downs and Raynham to have legal sports betting. Of course, the governor’s draft legislation could undergo alterations in the runup to its passage, so Suffolk Downs’ supporters might lobby Massachusetts lawmakers to provide a lifeline for the long-struggling race track.

Suffolk Sterling Sportsbook Not Likely

Sports betting might bolster Suffolk Sterling Racecourse, the successor to Suffolk Downs, depending on how the bill is written. The race track, which plans to close later this year, might need to become a racino to operate effectively, which is not likely to happen. HYM Investment Group, a Boston real estate developer, owns the race track, but leases the facility to Suffolk Downs’ race organizers.

The Suffolk Downs race track’s final season will be 2019. The race schedule lasts from the weekend of May 18-19 to the weekend of June 15-16, 2019. Suffolk Downs closes for good on June 16, 2019. It will be replaced by Suffolk Sterling Racecourse in East Boston. HYM Investment Group continues to build Suffolk Sterling Racecourse.

Will Suffolk Sterling Racecourse Have a Sportsbook

A few Nevada race tracks flourish with a racebook and a sportsbook, while betting shops flourish in other countries around the world. If Suffolk Downs launched a land-based sportsbooks along with online and mobile sports betting, the business might be sufficient. Live in-play sports betting apps have revolutionized sports wagering in many countries.

Suffolk Downs’ owners might have the legal right to open a sportsbook, because many state gambling laws allow license holders to apply for an online gaming license. Suffolk Downs closed in 2014, but its gaming license might remain active or could be reactivated in certain circumstances.

Governor Baker’s bill looks like it has widespread acceptance in Massachusetts.¬†An Internet poll by the Boston Herald showed 83% of repondents support sports betting, 15% oppose, and 2% are undecided.