Will Massachusetts Finally Legalize Sports Betting?
In less than three months of going live with legal mobile sports betting, New York has become the No. 1 market in the US in terms of total betting handle. Heading into the final 10 days of March, New York sportsbook operators have taken in more than $4.4 billion in bets since early January.
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As one of the biggest sports markets in the country, it is no big surprise that the Empire State has knocked it out the park in such a short amount of time. The previous state at the top of the list was neighboring New Jersey.
Prior to New York launching legal online sports betting on Jan. 8 of this year, it had been estimated that as much as 20% of New Jersey’s monthly sports betting handle came from New York bettors crossing state lines.
Given the natural rivalry between New York City and Boston across numerous professional sports teams, Massachusetts’ lawmakers must be taking notice. This state is still working through the legislative process to legalize sports betting. The effort has made significant progress but it is far from a done deal at this time.
Backed by the full support of the Massachusetts’ House and Governor Charlie Barker, the main issue appears to be in the state Senate. Earlier this year, Senate President Karen Spilka publicly stated that legalizing sports betting in the 2022 legislative session was not a top priority. As this year’s session continues to wear on, that appears to be the case.
The most interesting aspect of the situation is that news sources have reported that close to 60% of the state’s senators have come out in favor of legal sports betting in Massachusetts. Nonetheless, drawing up support for a hearing on a Senate bill that would accomplish this goal has been hard to find.
The actual tally shows 24 state senators voicing support to pass the necessary legislation. Another eight senators responded as being undecided, noncommittal or unwilling to share their stance. None of the respondents came out against legal sports betting but 12 senators did not reply.
With 33 states and the District of Columbia offering legal sports betting in some form, the pressure continues to build. Along with New York, neighboring states such as Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire offer legal betting on sports.
You can also add in the fact that DraftKings, as the second-biggest legal US sportsbook operator, is based in Boston.
Comments by two lawmakers addressed the current situation. Senator Ryan Fattman stated:
“The sports betting bill has been in discussion in the Legislature for quite a while and I am surprised that we have not gotten anything done with this legislation up to this point.”
Senator Bruce Tarr also responded with his comments on the matter. When asked about a specific issue, he responded with:
“Not that I’m aware of. I think it needs to find its place as a priority and that’s what’s holding it up. And clearly, for many of us, it is a priority. And it’s a priority because we’re leaving $30-50 million a year on the table, maybe more.”
Most Massachusetts’ lawmakers are painfully aware of how much money the state is losing because of this ongoing delay.
Both House Speaker Ron Mariano and Gov. Baker voiced their frustration back in February in relation to all the lost revenue that could be attributed to legal betting on the Super Bowl alone.
The state House passed legislation in favor of legal sports betting last year by an overwhelming majority through a 156-3 vote. Hope remains that the state Senate will finally be motivated to follow suite sooner than later.
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