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Sports-betting provision scratched from Massachusetts legislation

The Massachusetts Senate has put the brakes on a sports-betting bill, but an analyst still believes it’s not a matter of if but when the Bay State will allow wagering on sports.

Lawmakers attempted to place a sports-betting provision in an economic development bill that was debated last week, but it was pulled from the legislation.

That means Massachusetts will not become the 19th state to enable some form of sports betting in the United States.

Still, Chris Grove, managing director of sports and emerging verticals for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a research company, said he expects Massachusetts will someday authorize it.

“File this under when and not if,” Grove said. “When you’re looking at comments coming out of Massachusetts from the Legislature, I think the reality is there are a lot of stakeholders that believe they deserve a seat at the table when a sports-betting bill is under consideration and getting consensus from those stakeholders is a complicated process that is highly unlikely to happen overnight. Fast-tracking sports-betting bills is going to be a pretty tough hill to climb.”

Grove is confident that Massachusetts will embrace sports wagering because one of the nation’s leading daily fantasy sports providers — DraftKings — is based in Boston.

Representatives of DraftKings, rival fantasy sports operator FanDuel, MGM Resorts International and the Boston Red Sox lobbied to include the sports-betting provision in the economic development bill.

But ultimately, it was removed.

“As it relates to sports gaming, sports wagering, I believe that certainly, the time is close when we are going to be tackling this issue, but the time is not now,” State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Nor is this the proper vehicle to do so in.”

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission stood ready to regulate sports betting if lawmakers provided the go-ahead, spokeswoman Sarah Magazine said Monday.

Two Las Vegas gaming companies stood to benefit from an affirmative passage of the bill. Wynn Resorts Ltd. operates Encore Boston Harbor Everett, Massachusetts, and indicated it planned to develop a sportsbook if authorized to do so. MGM Resorts International operates MGM Springfield in western Massachusetts.

Representatives of both companies did not comment on the Legislature’s action.

Had the sports wagering provision been a part of the legislation, the leading proposal included an application fee of $250,000 covering the first five years of operation with a $100,000 renewal fee for the second five years. The state had proposed a 15 percent tax on adjusted gross sports wagering receipts with an additional 1 percent for events taking place in Massachusetts.

But Grove is convinced the “local hero” DraftKings’ presence in the state will make sports betting a reality.

“The presence of a local hero as one of the leaders in the national sports-betting market calling Massachusetts home and Massachusetts not authorizing sports betting, that’s an aggressive dissonance and it’s one of the key reasons why we think Massachusetts will move a bill sooner rather than later,” Grove said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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