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MA Officials Meeting To Talk The Odds Of Legal Sports Betting

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New Jersey is trying to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and legalize sports betting. By all accounts, it got the better of the sports leagues during Monday’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.

With momentum building, and the chances of a New Jersey victory growing, several other states are looking to be first-movers on sports betting. Several already initiated laws to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps.

Beyond New Jersey, 12 states introduced sports betting legislation this year. Three of those states even preemptively legalizing sports betting should federal law allows it.

Those states are:

  • Connecticut
  • Mississippi
  • Pennsylvania

It looks like yet another state, Massachusetts, will add its name to at least one of these lists soon.

Hearing scheduled for Thursday

During an already scheduled meeting on Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will discuss the New Jersey sports betting case. Additionally, they will debate what Massachusetts’s next steps might be.

MGC Spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll told the Boston Herald, “We are following any developments closely,” adding, “The Commission has not taken an official position.”

The Herald also spoke to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. A spokesperson for the AG said it was “Fair to say we are aware of this case.”

MA casinos would welcome sports betting

Sports betting isn’t a huge revenue generator in casino terms, but it’s a major driver of foot traffic. It is also lively area of the casino that can have positive effects on the mood of the entire property.

With Connecticut already taking the plunge and authorizing sports betting should the Supreme Court side with New Jersey, Massachusetts’ casinos will likely lobby the state to add sports betting sooner rather than later.

Massachusetts has three authorized casinos. Major casino corporations run all three:

  • Plainridge Park Casino (Penn National)
  • MGM Springfield (MGM Resorts)
  • Wynn Boston Harbor (Wynn)

All three would benefit if sports betting is legalized.

Plainridge Park is the only casino currently open for business. It already offers live harness racing and simulcast racing.

Adding sports betting would help drive foot traffic, and allow the property to convert the current aged racing and simulcast area into a top-flight race and sports book that can be incorporated into the rest of the casino rather than hidden in an annex.

MGM is already planning to add a sports book to Borgata in Atlantic City. There have also been a smattering of rumors that the MGM Springfield property will boast a sports bar that is either a sports book in disguise, or could be easily converted into a sports book.

Judging by comments from Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor, Wynn also seems keen on the idea.

“We at Wynn Boston Harbor are watching the court case with interest. Our industry supports legalized and regulated sports betting but the ultimate decision rests with the courts, state and federal lawmakers and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.”

Will MA act?

Massachusetts’ appetite for gambling expansion is difficult to gauge.

The state was one of the first movers on daily fantasy sports, but has thus far resisted efforts to legalize online gaming and online lottery.

If the SCOTUS decides states should make the decision on sports betting, Massachusetts seems like a very strong candidate, as does neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

With Connecticut already taking action, the other New England states might not have much of a choice, or they will risk losing revenue and casino traffic to their neighbors that do take the plunge.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player.