Massachusetts Casino Execs Tell State Lawmakers Sports Betting Critical

Massachusetts casino executives tell Beacon Hill lawmakers that legalizing sports betting is critically important in allowing their three properties to better compete with casinos in neighboring states where wagering on sports is permitted.

Massachusetts casinos sports betting Encore MGM Plainridge
Massachusetts casinos sports betting Encore MGM Plainridge
Encore Boston Harbor President Jenny Holaday is one of three Massachusetts casino executives calling on the state to approve sports betting. The ongoing prohibition, Holaday says, is limiting Encore, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park’s ability to properly compete with casinos in neighboring states. (Image: Boston Magazine)

Officials from Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park recently wrote Massachusetts Senate and House lawmakers expressing their concerns that the state legislature might again adjourn without approving sports betting. The General Court is slated to conclude its 2022 session at the end of the month.

The Massachusetts casino execs say allowing the three properties to offer betting on sports will keep more gamblers in the commonwealth. The casino officials claim that many sports bettors are traveling to neighboring sports betting states — New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire — to place their legal bets.

But it’s not only the lost sportsbook activity that Massachusetts’ three casinos are missing out on. The property reps say those sports bettors also typically gamble and eat and drink.

The casino executives did not express any certain policy conditions that they would prefer, instead simply telling lawmakers that they should find common ground before August 1 and send an approved sports betting bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) desk.

Committee Progress

More Massachusetts lawmakers than not support legalizing sports betting. But the Senate and House differ greatly in how it’s best to go about regulating the expanded gambling.

The Senate wants to impose a 35% tax on an online sportsbook’s revenue and 20% on in-person income. The House says a lower tax — 12.5% on retail and 15% online — is more reasonable and will better allow legal, regulated sportsbook operators to compete with untaxed and unregulated offshore bookmakers.

The Massachusetts sports betting bill passed by the Senate additionally seeks to prohibit betting on college athletics, something House lawmakers want to allow.

Since early June, a joint conference committee consisting of three state Senators and three House Representatives has been working to reach a mutually agreeable middle. But with less than a week to go before the General Court is to adjourn, the odds continue to lengthen that the committee will finalize a conference report and have the joint measure approved in each chamber.

Action Needed

The Encore, MGM, and Plainridge casino executives hope a sports betting resolution will be reached before August 1. If sports betting remains outlawed in Massachusetts for another year, they claim their resorts will pay the price.

We respectfully implore you to seize on the opportunity to level the playing field in this hyper-competitive industry,” the letter, signed by Encore Boston Harbor President Jenny Holaday, MGM Springfield President Chris Kelley, and Plainridge Park General Manager North Grounsell, pleased with the state.

“Today, 35 states have legalized sports betting, including the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and no resident of the Commonwealth is more than an hour’s drive from a state where legal sports betting is available. As a result, our competitors in these states are now offering a significant amenity and service we are prohibited from offering in Massachusetts and capturing the Commonwealth’s entertainment dollars once again,” the letter declared.

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