BOSTON — Beacon Hill leaders are looking to get a piece of the action following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized wagers on professional sports.
Gov. Charlie Baker and lawmakers have filed several proposals to authorize sports betting online and at casinos, and to tax and regulate the new industry.
Supporters of the proposals — several of which were heard by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on Tuesday — say they will open a new revenue stream to help cities, towns and schools while cutting into illegal bookmaking markets that have flourished under federal prohibitions.
“We know that illegal wagering is occurring each and every day on the black market,” Mike Kennealy, Baker’s secretary of housing and economic development, told the panel. “One of our primary goals here is to transition sports betting activity from the illegal black market toward a more secure, regulated market.”
Kennealy said Baker’s proposal, filed in January, would authorize the state’s Gaming Commission to license casino operators to offer on-site wagering and allow Draft Kings and other daily fantasy sports operators to be licensed for online sports wagering. Betting would not be permitted on high school, college or amateur events.
Sports wagering businesses would be required to pay a $100,000 application fee and $500,000 licensing fee to the state that must be renewed every five years. Operators would pay a 10% tax on sports wagering inside casinos, while online bets would be taxed at 12.5%.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring sports gambling in nearly all states except Nevada, paving the way for wagers on games. The case involved New Jersey, which fought for years to allow sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.
Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, has filed a proposal similar to Baker’s and points out that Massachusetts has plenty of experience with regulated gambling.
“We have a long history of betting on horses, we have the Lottery and more recently resort casinos and fantasy sports,” he told the panel on Tuesday. “With the Supreme Court’s decision last year, we have an opportunity to bring sports betting out of the shadows.”
Like Baker’s proposal, Crighton’s doesn’t include wagering on college basketball and other sports, but he hopes fellow lawmakers will consider allowing it.
“We strongly believe that we cannot compete with the illegal market unless we allow betting on NCAA games,” he said. “This betting is already going on.”
At least nine states — including New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi — have legalized sports betting, as has the District of Columbia.
In November, Rhode Island became the first state in New England to permit sports betting, allowing wagers at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln. New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York are considering similar proposals.
Massachusetts is expected have four resort casinos and a slots parlor within the next several years, including the already opened MGM Resort in Springfield, a slots parlor in Plainville and a 24-story resort along the Everett waterfront, which is set to open this year.
Several operators are competing for a fourth casino license on the South Shore.
The state Gaming Commission, which would regulate the new industry, released a report in 2017 estimating that sports wagering could bring in upward of $61 million a year into the state’s coffers.
Some lawmakers and officials have expressed concern about how it might affect the casino industry and a Lottery that collects more than $5 billion a year.
Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the Lottery, has warned that allowing new forms of legalized gambling could hurt lottery sales and has proposed allowing online lottery sales as part of an effort to modernize the system.
Goldberg has also cautioned that allowing online sports betting creates a “new element of risk to the system and the consumer” that will require robust state funding and protections.
“It presents new opportunities for cyber criminals to infiltrate systems to defraud bettors and reduce public trust in the institution,” she told lawmakers Tuesday. “Given the extraordinary array of risks posed by sports betting, especially online betting, the cost of accountability is sure to be substantial, but absolutely necessary.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.