Sleeping Giants On Massachusetts Sports Betting Abound Everywhere

Posted By Derek Helling on November 14, 2019

The Boston Bruins. The New England Patriots. DraftKings and MGM. These are just a few examples of parties that could take part in Massachusetts sports betting lobbying.

Despite that, the activity on that front is as quiet as the action in the state’s Legislature. While the two are connected, the former could inspire the latter.

Examining the lack of Massachusetts sports betting lobbying

Legal sports betting in the Bay State could have many stakeholders. These include casinos, sporting event venues and the state’s lottery.

Despite that fact, there are no organized campaigns in the state to push for legalization. That’s understandable to a degree, however, as there is currently nothing happening in Boston on that front.

As there is no bill to legalize sports betting in either chamber at the moment, there’s technically nothing to lobby any members of those legislative bodies on. That’s only half of the equation, though.

There’s nothing preventing committees in either chamber from holding hearings on the subject. For example, the Missouri House has held hearings on gambling expansion recently without any bills filed.

The nature of those hearings is largely informational for the legislators involved. Potential stakeholders like MLB and DraftKings have representatives testifying there.

The situation is circular. Because there’s no bill, potential interested parties are opting to spend resources elsewhere. Because there’s no pressure from those stakeholders, the Legislature is similarly spending its resources elsewhere.

It seems everyone is waiting for something to happen. The problem, however, is the people who are doing the waiting are the same people who could be pushing the action.

Why the inactivity is problematic for everyone involved

Not only does the delay in activity mean lost potential revenue for stakeholders, it also supports the negative facets of the status quo. Those are real downsides.

Every day, Massachusetts residents place bets using illegal bookies or offshore channels. They do so without consumer protections or access to resources for help with gambling problems which regulated markets provide.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts’ casinos have struggled to meet revenue projections recently. That has led to people losing their jobs, which harms the state’s economy even further.

Sportsbooks could not only help with revenue at casinos but could also boost employment. The potential for new jobs goes beyond the casinos.

It’s possible that other venues like the TD Garden and Gillette Stadium could house sportsbooks as well. That would mean even more new jobs for the state.

Even if that wouldn’t be the case, teams like the Boston Celtics would still benefit from the increased interest in their games that sports betting would create. Augmented public services in Massachusetts created by sports betting tax revenue would benefit all Massachusetts residents.

Those people, the citizens of Massachusetts, could also play a part in making something happen on the legislative front.

What Massachusetts residents can do about the problem

Massachusetts residents can always contact their representatives in Boston to express their sentiments about any issue. The legislators have email and social media accounts for this purpose.

Additionally, Massachusetts law provides a method that can circumvent the Legislature. The state’s initiative petition process enables Massachusetts residents to enact and repeal laws via ballot measures.

That would have to wait until 2021, however, as such petitions can only be filed in odd years prior to the first Wednesday in August. The vote in that scenario wouldn’t take place until 2022.

While that might seem like a long way off, there’s no guarantee the Legislature will move before then either. Right now, there’s no pressure on it to do so.

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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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