Massachusetts okays betting bill giving sports leagues revenue share

By Hayley Grammer

The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favour of Bill H.4879, an Act that would authorise legal online and land-based sports betting in the state.

Heading to the senate for further debate before the current legislative session ends on Friday, the new clause to sports wagering legislation and the type of commercial relationship it would expressly permit, if passed, would be a first.

The bill envisions three specific categories of betting licenses: Hybrid online/land-based betting for the state’s casino operators; in-person betting for state racetracks; and a ‘Category 3’ license for any Massachusetts-licensed fantasy sports operator that is also licensed for legal sports betting in at least two other US states.

No state has currently sanctioned agreements where sports league contracts receive an off-the-top slice of wagers on bets placed on a league’s contests, which the league would collect irrespective of the game’s outcome or the sportsbook’s revenue.

Companies that meet the criteria for licensing can request a temporary license to start offering betting, provided they submit an initial license fee of $50k. In time they’ll need to pay a $250k application fee for a five-year license, which can be renewed for additional five-year periods at $100k.

If approved, wagering licensees will pay 15% tax on their betting revenue, plus an additional 1% of revenue derived from events at local sports venues, the value of which will be distributed to the operators of those venues for the purpose of sports wagering security and integrity.

To date, only Tennessee and Illinois are deemed fit to include such mandatory use of league data in their betting legislation. But Massachusetts will go one step further by authorising leagues to enter into commercial agreements with betting licensees to share in the revenues derived from wagers placed on a specific league’s games.

HB 4879 is expected to move through the House fairly easily, with leagues not required to obtain licenses or any other approval from state regulators to share in the betting bounty.


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