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What's Next For Sports Betting In Massachusetts To Become Legal?

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday voted to approve a bill that would make betting on sports legal in the state. The House has also passed a sports gambling bill and Gov. Charlie Baker has signaled his support. So when will residents be able to start wagering on games at casinos and on their phones?

First, the Legislature has to reconcile differences between the House bill approved last summer and the just-passed Senate bill. And there are key differences - most notably that the Senate chose not to allow betting on college sports.

In addition, the Senate version opted to strip a House provision that would let people use credit cards to place their bets. It also enact a higher tax rate on sportsbooks' revenues than the House did, limits advertising of sports betting around live broadcasts of sporting events and provides gambling addiction resources.

"This bill has been carefully crafted to include strong consumer protections and encourage a competitive market for fun and responsible betting," said Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. He estimates that legalizing the industry would keep $35 million to $65 million in tax dollars in Massachusetts.

The next step is setting up a conference committee of House and Senate members to come to an agreement, which the State House News Service reported could happen as soon as next week. A compromise bill would need to be approved before the legislative session ends on July 31.

Sports betting is already legal in more than 30 states, including Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York. Gov. Baker, who first proposed a sports wagering bill in 2019, said there's plenty of evidence that Massachusetts residents have been driving over the border to place bets.

"I've said before that with all that's going on in other states and especially the ones around us with regard to sports betting, it's important for us to pass legislation and legalize it here," he said. "My hope would be that [the House and Senate] would both work to get something to our desk so that we can sign by the end of the session."

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