The Massachusetts state legislature has amended the sports wagering bill that was forward last week, adding new provisions that would legalize online lotteries. At the same time, however, they have effectively doubled the tax rate for online betting.

Last week, a fresh economic development package bill was brought forward to the state’s legislature, which included a section that was aimed at introducing legal sports betting in the state. Put forward by the House Committee on Ways and Means, the bill was designed to enable the formation of partnerships between organisations in the state, and sets out a range of proposed measures including a Sports Wagering Act, which would legalize land-based and online sports betting across the state.

A range of new amendments to the bill have been taken up the House on a 157-1 vote. These include the legalisation of online lottery sales and permission for the state Lottery Commission to promote the sail of lottery tickets, including the provision of prepay gift cards. The Commission has also been asked to conduct a study to analyse state lottery law and suggest any necessary changes.

Lottery players will be given the option to self-exclude from playing online lottery games and will be given the power to set maximum deposit and spending limits. The bill also stipulates that operation and administration costs involved in running the lottery should not exceed 15% of ticket revenue. The state lottery will also be allowed to offer online fantasy sports under the new rules.

The initial bill also proposed a 15% tax rate for sports betting, but the new amendments have doubled this rate to 30% although a proposed rate of 50% was rejected. In addition, operators who hold Category 2 licenses, which cover racetrack betting, will be allowed to offer mobile betting.

Politicians in the state have also asked the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to produce a report on the possibility of launching a casino in the Southeast region of the state. While this was made possible by the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, the project has been delayed in recent years due to concerns about competition from neighbouring states Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The bill is currently awaiting another reading in the House of Representatives, and if it is passed would then move on to the state Senate for consideration.

The development is good news for the Massachusetts State Lottery which recently announced that it had suffered a year on year drop in revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, mainly due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Revenue for the year to June 30, 2020, amounted to $5.25 billion, which is a decrease of 4.7% from the $5.51 billion figure for last.

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