Sports Betting in Massachusetts: New Bill on the Table

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Sports betting is becoming more widespread in the United States. For a long time, it is an activity that was federally illegal but in May 2018, the Supreme Court has stricken down the Professional and Amateur Act (PASPA) of 1992. This made sports betting federally legal and also allowed each state to decide on whether this is something they would like to regulate locally. Today, there are now over 20 states with legal sports wagering, and another state that might join this list is Massachusetts.

Well, it’s not like the people of Massachusetts do not have any access to online casinos and sportsbooks. Currently, online gambling is unregulated in the state and no law in the US prohibits anyone from accessing casino sites. Because of this, many punters would just check reviews of India betting apps or any other betting sites offshore and in the neighboring states with legal online gambling operations like Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Daniel Wallach who is a gaming attorney and familiar with sports betting regulations in numerous states said that people in Massachusetts are taking the time to drive to other states just so they can place a bet on their favorite sports team and this is a loss of opportunity for tax revenues.

Wallach said, “This is an ideal market in which to legalize sports wagering because there is so much engagement around sports. Online sports betting is going to be the key discussion in the Commonwealth, given how prominent it is and how prolific it is throughout the nation.”

Sports Betting Bill in Massachusetts

It’s not the first time that the state is tackling sports betting. Earlier this year, the state representatives voted 156-3 on a sports betting bill that will allow collegiate sports gambling. However, when this happened, State Senator Eric Lesser who proposed a bill that will allow sports betting in the state said that collegiate sports gambling isn’t included in his proposed legislation.

According to Lesser, the difference between collegiate and professional sports should be emphasized. He said, “Pro sports teams want legalized gambling and have the infrastructure in place to support that. Why don’t we get started where there’s a consensus?”

He also sees that the pending legislation could make the state a hub for tech-based betting and hospitality products. Massachusetts could simply have the best online sportsbooks.  After all, one of the biggest sports betting giants today, DraftKings, is based in the state. He said that sports betting is just the tip of the iceberg for a bigger conversation.

Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Rep. Jerald Parisella, also spoke about collegiate sports gambling. According to him, residents are still likely to cross state lines to bet on collegiate sports especially on Boston College or University of Massachusetts teams.

Parisella said, “If we had just pro sports betting, my concern is that you’re going to have consumers that want a product that allows them to bet on pro and college.” He pointed out that March Madness, after all, is the second-largest betting event after the Super Bowl. Without collegiate sports betting, the state would significantly slash the potential revenue of 60 million USD annually.

Either way, Representative Lesser is convinced that the state’s goal is to get it right. He acknowledged that it is a top-tier issue. Before the senate consensus in July, Lesser said, “It’s been something many of us have been working on, on almost a daily basis. And there are very active conversations going on. I think it’s time to do something:  the goal is to get it right.”

Since the Senate vote in July, the bill somewhat lost its momentum and recently, the state’s Gaming Commission had discussions on a sports betting study that the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) carried out. This, however, may delay the legislation of the pending bill.

Study on Massachusetts Sports Betting is on The Way

Even if the state senate has already decided that sports betting will be good for the state, the gaming commission has still decided to proceed with a study that will put the activity under a magnifying glass. This study should reveal whether introducing sports betting in the state will be rather beneficial.

The study deemed that it is best if the commission will hold a full-scale study on sports betting and how it has been successfully implemented in over 30 states in the US. Data on the success of rolling out the industry in these states and key areas on mitigating gambling harm are expected to be part of the study.