Compared to the rest of Massachusetts, time moves at a different pace on Beacon Hill: slower, much slower.
Look at the $3.8 billion economic development bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law last week, which infuses cash into a variety of areas that need it, from hospitals to early education providers to small businesses. Lawmakers, stymied by the news that Massachusetts would have to return $3 billion to taxpayers, delayed their talks on that bill three months after the end of formal legislative sessions. They removed the tax reform measures from the final bill, pushing that question onto next year’s agenda.
Meanwhile, after more than a year of work, the task force tasked with reinventing the state’s seal and motto is approaching its December 31 deadline with a pile of unanswered questions, including how it will spend the newly assigned, what kind of public outreach you should do, and most importantly, what a new seal or slogan should actually include.
To keen gamblers, waiting for the launch of sports betting in Massachusetts might seem like part of the same pattern of slow-paced decisions. But four years after a US Supreme Court ruling paved the way for states to allow sports betting and three months after Baker signed a bill that did exactly that in Massachusetts, the delay in this point is not so much a product of inertia as unglamorous complexities. to raise and regulate a new industry.
With that in mind, here are three things to know about the state of the sports betting process in Massachusetts.
It won’t happen this year.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the state agency that already oversees casinos and horse racing, is aiming for a two-phase rollout. Under the schedule envisioned by the commissioners, existing gaming facilities — Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino in Everett — could begin offering sports betting as early as late January, in time for the Super Bowl. They are considering an early March window for mobile betting to go live, which would allow college basketball fans to place bets for March Madness.
The commissioners warned that unforeseen issues could arise and delay the start, so those dates may not be set in stone. While some legislative leaders expressed hope that sports betting would get up and running quickly once the law was signed, regulators said they want to make sure they take the time to get it right and establish an honest marketplace.
There’s a lot on their agenda as they work to meet those 2023 goals: The commission has identified about 225 regulations that will need to be implemented. Seven regulations and regulatory amendments, covering topics such as the protection of underage youth, occupational licensing and sports betting equipment, are up for review and possible votes at a meeting of the Gaming Commission today.
More than two dozen companies are currently in the mix.
Twenty-nine prospective sports betting operators submitted surveys to the Gambling Commission before the October deadline. The survey was a first step in the application process, and not everyone may submit full applications, which are due with a $200,000 processing fee by next Monday.
Mobile sports betting generated the most interest, with surveys submitted by 23 potential applicants, including Boston-based DraftKings.
The law sets the maximum number of mobile betting licenses at seven. Commissioners have said that if a flood of applications for those licenses arrives, evaluating each potential operator could take longer than anticipated and make an early March launch date less realistic.
The state hopes to raise $60 million a year.
The law establishes a 15% tax on bets made in person, with mobile bets taxed at 20%. Lawmakers said when they passed the bill that it would generate an estimated $60 million in annual tax revenue. The state also expects to collect up to $80 million in initial license fees that will need to be renewed every five years.
Compared to the state’s more than $50 billion annual budget, tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue is a relatively small addition. However, until gambling can be done legally here, it is money that in many cases is being pocketed by the black market or by states like Connecticut that already have licensed gambling operations in operation.