Massachusetts Sports Betting Hearing Is Reason For Cautious Optimism

Posted By Derek Helling on July 31, 2019

Don’t look now, but there has been some movement with a Massachusetts sports betting hearing.

For the first time in over a month, the Massachusetts Legislature has taken some action on Massachusetts sports betting. While there’s no clear reason to get excited, the fact that anything has happened should provoke optimism.

Massachusetts sports betting hearing details

On July 15, the members of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emergent Technologies met for two-and-a-half hours. During that time, the seven senators and 13 representatives discussed 14 related bills.

A contingent of Senate bills introduced by the committee’s Senate chair, Eric Lesser, is among them. Lesser has been the most active advocate for sports betting in Massachusetts in the Senate.

Bradford Hill sponsored most of the House bills on the agenda. Hill is not on the Economic Development and Emergent Technologies committee.

Hill’s and Lesser’s bills are closely related in language; however, it’s unlikely that Lesser would have any objection to advancing Hill’s bills in his chamber should the committee lean that way.

Massachusetts residents could consider this hearing a follow-up to another hearing from over a month ago. That’s good news.

Cause for optimism on Massachusetts betting

The narrative from the legislature in regards to sports betting in Massachusetts has never been one of outright opposition, but rather caution. The legislators want to take their time to ensure they enact the best law possible.

A two-day hearing at the end of May involved many potential stakeholders, including casino owners and Boston-based DraftKings. The nature of that hearing was largely informative.

The fact that another hearing happened about six weeks later means the committee is processing the information that was gathered. That means the process of taking action on the issues has begun.

That’s a reason for optimism, but cautious at that. There still isn’t a timetable for any further action.

Why any excitement should still be reserved

Although some movement has occurred on this issue, that doesn’t mean Massachusetts residents should start plotting their betting strategies now. This action is still very preliminary.

The committee still needs to address the issue of possible amendments to bills and/or which bills it will vote in favor. If any bills in any form do come to a vote in the committee, they would then pass to the full House and Senate floors for further debate.

Currently, the committee has no votes scheduled on any of these bills or further hearings on the matter. There’s no telling how many more conferences or hearings could happen before votes would be scheduled.

It’s also possible that all of the current bills could die at this stage. That would put legislators, like Lesser, back at square one.

Many more months could pass before the question of whether sports betting will be legalized in Massachusetts is answered. The fact that this hearing happened suggests that the answer will eventually come. It’s now simply a matter of when.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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