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Sports betting Bill up for vote in Massachusetts

A debate on the legalisation of sports betting is poised in Massachusetts with a vote potentially being held this Thursday. However, there is contention as a Bill that was published on Friday by a Senate committee differs in several ways from the sports betting Bill that was already cleared by the House.

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A Wagering Bill was advanced favourably from the Senate Ways and Means Committee last Friday, according to a source. If it makes it through Senate next week, lawmakers will have around three months to put aside their differences to create a Bill for Governor Charlie Baker. Baker has been a supporter of legalised sports betting for several years. 

“I am pleased to see the committee has come to an agreement on a strong proposal and I look forward to discussing it with my colleagues next week,” said Senate President Karen Spilka.

Since May 2018, more than 30 states, including Massachusetts’ neighbour Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York have all proceeded in allowing sports betting to be made legal.

One of the main differences between the Bill the Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced on Friday and the legislation that passed through House in July is the prohibition on wagers on collegiate athletes that was included in the Senate’s Bill.  It continues to be a contentious issue with House Speaker, Ronald Mariano stating that for him, leaving collegiate betting out of any Bill “probably would be” a dealbreaker. 

“I find myself having a tough time trying to justify going through all of this to not include probably the main driver of betting in the Commonwealth,” commented said last summer.

However, the Senate argues that its ban on college sports betting is in line with a request from the Presidents and Athletic Directors of the eight Massachusetts colleges and universities that run Division l sports programmes. 

Legalising sports betting on college athletics would lead to “unnecessary and unacceptable risks to student athletes, their campus peers, and the integrity and culture of colleges and universities in the Commonwealth,” stated the Presidents and Athletics Director.

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