Legislation included adoption of 4 amendments filed by Sen. Keenan
For Immediate Release: 4-29-22
Contact: Peter Jasinski | email@example.com
BOSTON – During its April 28 formal session, the Massachusetts Senate approved legislation to legalize commercial sports wagering in the Commonwealth. The bill also featured several amendments filed by Sen. Keenan, including legislation to prevent underage gambling and increase transparency in compulsive gambling assistance programs.
The bill, which would allow for in-person and online sports betting, also includes several consumer safeguards and addresses gaming addiction and recovery. This legislation is estimated to generate $35 million in tax revenue annually.
“The people of the Commonwealth have made it clear that sports betting is something they want to have the right to do, so we have the responsibility to build a system in which this activity is as safe and as beneficial to the state of Massachusetts as possible,” said Sen. John F. Keenan. “With this legislation moving forward, we are one big step closer to bringing back some of the revenues Massachusetts has lost to neighboring states where legalized commercial sports betting is already legal.”
Four amendments filed by Sen. Keenan were included in the bill approved by the Senate.
One amendment seeks to reduce illegal underage participation in sports betting by requiring wagering businesses to put systems in place to prevent anyone under the age of 21 from placing a bet.
Another amendment filed by Sen. Keenan will help ensure transparency in the state’s handling of gambling revenues by requiring the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide reports to the Legislature on spending relative to the state’s Compulsive Gaming Direct Assistance Program, which provides counseling and other supports to individuals struggling with compulsive gambling. The same amendment struck a provision that would have provided individuals receiving counseling and on an excluded gambler list from receiving direct payments from the fund. Sen. Keenan was concerned that there was no way established in the bill to ensure that those funds would not be used to bet through illegal gaming channels.
The legislation would allow for bets to be placed on a professional sport or athletic event, such as the World Series or Stanley Cup, and establishes a licensing process that is inclusive of the state’s existing casino and slot parlor industry. In addition to sports wagering being offered at existing casinos, the bill contemplates six licenses to be awarded through a competitive process to companies which promote job-growth, responsible gambling, diversity, equity and inclusion, and which have community support. Those six licenses would be permitted to operate both in-person at a retail facility and online wagering.
Wagering would not be permitted on electronic sports, amateur sports or athletic events including high school and youth sports, Olympic-related competitions, or collegiate sports. All leading Massachusetts Division 1 universities had previously weighed in against college sports betting.
Mindful of the harmful impacts of compulsive gambling and risks of addiction, the Senate proposal is intentional in its efforts to promote responsible gambling and takes steps to protect consumers. To that end, the bill would prohibit the use of a credit card to place a sports wager and would require the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish a compulsive gambling direct assistance program.
Additionally, companies licensed to offer sports betting would be required to train employees to identify problem gambling and create plans to address instances of problem gambling, which would be submitted to the state’s Gaming Commission. In addition, the bill would ensure that consumers could cash out and permanently close accounts for any reason or create self-imposed limits on wagers.
To further protect consumers, this legislation would include limitations on advertising for sports betting. The bill would prohibit unsolicited pop-up advertisements and certain promotional items, and institute a whistle-to-whistle ban on television advertising during live sporting events. Similar to the state’s cannabis law, the bill would limit advertising on television and online where less than 85% of the audience is 21 or older.
Though it was not adopted by the Senate, Sen. Keenan had also filed an amendment that would have reduced exposing children to marketing of gambling services by preventing advertising from using content built around mascots, cartoons, or celebrity endorsements, or featuring in the advertising anybody under the age of 21. The amendment would have also prohibited marketing on mobile apps, digital platforms, and television platforms frequently utilized by younger consumers, and prohibited the industry from sponsoring any collegiate, secondary, elementary or primary school team, event or activity, or any event or activity in which participants are younger than 21 years old.
“If Massachusetts is going to have legal sports betting, we need to make sure it’s safe and responsible sports betting. That means protecting our state’s youth from targeted advertising,” said Sen. Keenan. “Massachusetts has a proven track record of protecting its young population from these kinds of marketing tactics and we should extend this tradition to this new industry.”
With legislation relative to sports betting having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a conference committee will be established to reconcile differences between the two bills before sending the legislation to the Governor.