Legalize Sports Betting in Massachusetts
In sports betting, Massachusetts is often overlooked as a gambling hot spot. Unlike some of its neighbor states that have wagering popularity on the recreational side only, Massachusetts sports betting is booming on the sporting and professional sides as well. According to one recent estimate, more than $1.2 billion is wagered on sports in Massachusetts each year. But the huge sum of money spent on sports betting in Massachusetts doesn’t reflect the popularity of the sporting events themselves; rather, it reflects the size of the population which supports them.
Although Massachusetts sports betting has been deemed a “betting right” by both the state legislature and the courts, officials are quick to point out that the law is always being abused. On the flipside, Massachusetts officials and local municipalities are quick to curtail illegal activities in the betting market. For example, in January 2021, lawmakers passed the Unlawful Taking and Gambling Enforcement Act which makes it a crime to operate an unlicensed gambling establishment. This includes any venue used for gaming, whether that be online or not.
According to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the current fiscal year is projecting a record breaking amount of over three billion dollars in sports betting revenues. Local municipalities like New England, which traditionally haven’t had much experience with the sports betting industry, are gearing up to cash in on the sports betting boom. As was expected, officials in New England are taking advantage of the state’s new, legalized sports betting bill. And this new revenue stream will help all municipalities throughout the commonwealth.
New England locals enjoy a long tradition of supporting college sports teams. As is the case with many other sports, however, betting on college sports teams has become a huge business. Estimates indicate that more than two hundred million people place bets on college games every year. In recent years, this has increased dramatically as the number of NCAA events and sports events has grown dramatically. According to the Associated Press, in September, 2021, the NCAA had reported that its sports marketing income had grown by twenty-seven percent in the previous fiscal year.
The Massachusetts gaming and lottery commission, which is responsible for regulating the state’s lottery, is also quite pleased with the sports betting legalization bills that have been recently passed into law in the state. The gaming commission is “fully in support” of the bill, according to its executive director, Rich Coleman. He told reporters, “This is something that really helps the individuals who collect winnings from lotteries and the companies who host the matches, along with the state itself. It also benefits the state itself in terms of revenue. It will generate new jobs and new sources of revenue.”
The New York State House recently voted in favor of sports betting revenue sharing, which is currently under scrutiny in the Assembly. Assemblyman Francisco D. Cayo (D Queens) said, “This revenue sharing idea isn’t a bad idea for the state, for the games themselves and for the owners of the teams that play those games. I’d like to see some study done on whether or not it increases revenue.”
Some Massachusetts State representatives are concerned about the costs that may be associated with this new law. During the hearing, Representative Joseph Lora (D-MA) said he plans to introduce a bill that would prevent the Massachusetts Mass Business Commission from regulating the sportsbooks. The press release that accompanied this news was issued by the MassGambling Commission. This press release indicates that the Commission is “reviewing” the proposed regulations, and will issue a final report on February 10th. The final report could come in the form of a recommendation, or an absolute ban, according to House Majority Leader William Davis (D-Boston).
One of the questions that I have noticed that a number of politicians and business people have had is whether or not legalizing sports betting would somehow eliminate the problem of gambling. In other words, would the legislation legalize sports betting without necessarily outlawing it? The answer to this question is no. Gambling in Massachusetts is illegal according to both the state legislature as well as the courts, and placing money into a sports betting account is also against the law. However, this doesn’t mean that Massachusetts residents can no longer enjoy a few select sporting events, because the legislation would legalize sports betting in Massachusetts.