Garden Gambling? Fenway Futures? Massachusetts Pro Teams Want Sportsbooks, Too

Posted By Martin Harris on July 28, 2021

Last week, Massachusetts lawmakers in the House overwhelmingly passed a sports betting bill. Now the Senate moves from the on-deck circle to the lawmaking plate to take a swing at the legislation.

The House bill allows the state’s three commercial casinos and up to three racetracks to offer retail sports betting. The casinos can also each offer up to three online skins, while the tracks can have one each.

In addition, the House adopted an amendment to have the Massachusetts Gaming Commission study the feasibility of allowing the state’s professional sports franchises to offer sports betting at their facilities. As the Senate contemplates how it will proceed, those Massachusetts sports teams have weighed in with their opinion.

They like the idea.

Massachusetts pro teams unanimous in support of sports betting

The Boston Herald reported last week that, according to a representative of the Boston Red Sox, all the state’s biggest sports franchises are in favor of their becoming part of Massachusetts’ new sports betting landscape.

“The Red Sox and the state’s other major professional sports teams — the Bruins, Patriots, Celtics, and the Revolution — all support the idea,” said David Friedman, senior vice president of legal and government affairs for the Red Sox.

A new license category suggested by the amendment would permit the franchises to accept sports bets in person either at or within a half-mile of their venues. The teams themselves would apply for licenses.

Of course, the amendment proposed by Rep. Jay Livingstone merely suggests studying the plan’s feasibility. Such a study would consider whether teams could designate a third party to operate sports betting for them. It would also consider economic, public health and safety impacts that could result from allowing the Red Sox to offer sports betting at Fenway Park, or the Boston Celtics to do the same at TD Garden.

As described in the amendment, the study would need to be completed no later than Dec. 31, 2022.

Massachusetts wouldn’t be the first state to allow its professional sports teams to take part in sports betting. Four other jurisdictions have passed similar legislation: Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Sports betting proponents continue to marshal support

The teams’ support of legal sports betting in Massachusetts has been articulated before.

Last November, the teams plus other interested parties co-authored a letter to the state’s lawmakers outlining their position.

“To use a sports analogy,” the letter stated, “Massachusetts is collectively keeping our bat on our shoulder in the competition for additional jobs in the innovation economy.”

The letter went on to describe negative consequences should Massachusetts not legalize sports betting. Such would constitute “a major win for illegal, offshore betting companies,” the authors argued.

The Red Sox, Celtics, Boston Bruins (NHL), New England Patriots (NFL) and New England Revolution (MLS) all signed the letter. So did the PGA Tour, MGM Springfield, FanDuel and Boston-based DraftKings.

Will Red Sox fans one day be able to bet the run line before taking their seats at Fenway? That remains to be seen. Meanwhile all eyes turn to the Senate to see if they act differently from a year ago when they failed to support House-passed sports betting legislation.

Photo by AP / Winslow Townson
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