Massachusetts governor proposes legalizing sports betting

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would legalize and tax betting on professional sports online and at casinos in Massachusetts.

Baker, a Republican, announced that he would file legislation allowing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to license the state’s three casino operators to offer both on-site and online betting.

The proposal would also allow other online entities, such as daily fantasy sports operators, to be licensed for sports wagering.

“Our legislation puts forth a series of commonsense proposals to ensure potential licensees are thoroughly vetted and safeguards are in place to protect against problem gambling and illegal activity,” Baker said in a statement.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned federal law prohibiting states from legalizing sports betting.

Baker’s proposal would put a 10 percent tax on sports wagering inside casinos, while online bets would be taxed at 12.5 percent. The gaming commission, which regulates casino gambling, would oversee sports betting. The governor says the proposal would direct revenue raised by the taxes toward local aid for cities and towns.

Daily fantasy sports contests, already legal but untaxed in Massachusetts, would also be subject to the 12.5 percent tax to “level the playing field” under Baker’s plan.

The governor’s proposal would not allow betting on college sports or other amateur sports.

James Chisholm, director of global public affairs for Boston-based daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings, called Baker’s plan “thoughtful,” and said that the company looked forward to working with the governor and lawmakers to approve a bill in the coming months.

“Legal, regulated mobile sports betting provides the best mechanism to not only protect consumers, but to eliminate illegal offshore gambling, ensure game integrity, generate new revenue for the Commonwealth and fuel the growth of Massachusetts’ sports-tech sector,” Chisholm said in a statement.

Massachusetts lawmakers have so far taken a cautious approach to sports betting. House Speaker Robert DeLeo asked a committee chaired by Rep. Joseph Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat who was one of the chief architects of the 2011 Massachusetts law that legalized casino gambling, to study the potential ramifications of legalizing gambling on sports.

Bills to do so, however, have been filed by lawmakers in both the House and Senate.

Several states including Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia legalized sports betting last year after the high court decision. Legislation is being considered in several other states.

Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island became the first in New England to accept bets on professional sports in November.

Massachusetts’ first resort casino, MGM Springfield, opened last summer. The state’s only slots parlor, in Plainville, has been operating since 2015.

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