Time to place your wagers: There’s a chance sports betting in MA could become legal

BOSTON — Starting Thursday, lawmakers in the Massachusetts senate are set to debate the highly contested sports betting bill that’s been discussed for years.

The senate meets Thursday at 11 a.m. to go over 69 amendments that have been offered up by different senators. The big area of contention is whether to allow wagers on collegiate sports.

The House bill that passed allows for betting on college games, but not on individual college athletes. The senate, however, bans betting on college sports.

House Speaker on Mariano has said not allowing residents to bet on college sports could be a deal-breaker.

The other issues up for discussion are how sports betting licenses should be structured and how the revenue should be spent.

Ever since Encore Casino in Everett opened in June of 2019, it has been anticipated the state would at some point legalize sports betting. It created a space for a sportsbook, which is currently a 400-seat restaurant and bar area where you can watch games.

Since 2018, more than 30 states, including neighboring New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York have all allowed sports betting. State Senator Eric Lesser says lawmakers have taken notice.

“We know that we’ve seen that and I think that’s part of the reason frankly why we’ve taken our time with getting this done,” said State Senator Eric Lesser. “But it’s also a big reason why the bill includes really some of the strongest consumer protections anywhere in the country.”

Governor Charlie Baker filed his own legislation to legalize sports betting back in January of 2019. He’s estimating it could bring in $35 million annually.

Senators will also debate where that money could go—some want it to go to schools, and others would like it to create a fund for youth sports programs for underserved kids.

If the bill passes the Senate today, then both the senate and house will need to agree on one version and present it to the governor. It will be up to the governor to sign it or not. This would need to be done by the end of the legislative session, which is July 31st.

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