Will Massachusetts legalize sports betting by the time the legislative session expires July 31? Place your bets now because the conference committee that will try to hammer out a compromise bill will meet Thursday to get down to business.
Reps. Jerald Parisella, Aaron Michlewitz and David Muradian and Sens. Michael Rodrigues, Eric Lesser and Patrick O'Connor are due to huddle virtually at 2 p.m. Thursday to kick off the negotiations around legal wagering.
Both branches have passed bills to authorize the activity, but they took vastly different approaches. The conference committee, which was formed May 19 but has not yet begun its work, will have a few significant issues to resolve.
The House sports betting bill would allow wagers on college sports, but the Senate's would not. The Senate bill has rigid restrictions on sports betting advertising, marketing and the use of credit cards that the House bill did not include.
And the branches opted for vastly different tax rates -- revenue from in-person bets would be subject to a tax of 20% in the Senate bill and 12.5% in the House bill, while money brought in from online or mobile bets would be taxed at 35% under the Senate framework and 15% under the House plan.
"The Senate bill is a paternalistic bill, it has all these anti-gaming protections so you don't get hooked on gaming. But you leave those two things to the black market," House Speaker Ronald Mariano said last month, referring to the ability to bet on the NCAA basketball tournament and college football bowl games.
He also said, "It's hard for me to figure out what the purpose of the Senate bill is." Senate President Karen Spilka, who has been cool to the idea of legalizing sports betting, said she would have voted to support her chamber's sports betting bill if it had gone to a roll call vote because of its "very strong" problem gambling protections.