Is Massachusetts Any Closer To Legal Sports Betting?

Written By Andrew Champagne on November 22, 2021

Several states in the Northeast have moved to pass legislation that legalizes sports gambling. With laws on the books in:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire

It is fair to wonder if New England’s most populous state, Massachusetts, will follow suit in the near future.

Governor Charlie Baker pushes bill for Boston

Currently, sports betting is illegal in all forms in the state, which is baffling considering DraftKings has its headquarters in Boston. The state contains a handful of casinos, and Boston is home to some of the most well-known franchises in sports like:

  • Red Sox
  • Celtics
  • Bruins

The state did recently put forth new legislation that would open the door for sports wagering soon. The bill, HD 678, would allow licensed casinos and digital providers to extend mobile wagering throughout the state introduced by Governor Charlie Baker.

No stranger to sports betting legislation, Baker has introduced a similar bill that went through the system in 2020.

Overwhelmingly the bill passed the state House of Representatives with a vote of 156-3. However, now sitting in the hands of the state Senate, President Karen Spilka has gone on record as saying sports betting is not necessarily a top priority.

“Right now, the focus is going to be on conference committees, resolving the budget, and COVID.”

Senator Spilka said in late-2020 when an amendment also backed by Senator Bruce Tarr was rejected without a roll call vote.

Sports gambling valuable revenue

Governor Baker’s administration had counted on considerable revenue from sports gambling at that time. The 2021 fiscal budget included a projected $35 million in gambling revenue. Those who shared the worries of politicians that the state was missing a valuable opportunity in the industry.

As a result, Representative Bud Williams, after the 2020 decision, said:

“My biggest concern is that we do nothing, it’s like when we did casinos, by the time we finally did casinos they were all over the Northeast and we missed a tremendous window of opportunity. It doesn’t matter which form it comes as long as we do it.”

Chris Kelley, the president, and chief operating officer of the MGM Springfield casino, added:

“With legalized sports betting already taking place across our borders in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, this is a unique opportunity to help support the local economy and bring consumers back to Massachusetts.”

As a result of the state’s inaction, residents of Massachusetts need to do their wagering in other states. Rhode Island amended its legislation to allow Massachusetts residents to sign up for accounts and place bets from mobile devices after crossing the state line.

Photo by Keith J Finks / Shutterstock.com
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