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Ever since the summer of 2018 when the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, the state of Massachusetts – as well as the other 49 – have been allowed to legalize, regulate, and tax a sports betting market, but up until now MA state lawmakers have refused to make that happen.
Last year, however, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill through their chambers, and at the end of last month, the state Senate did the same, a clear sign that a legal sports betting market in the Codfish State is a matter of when, not if, at this point.
It seems inevitable given that Bay State bettors are already placing sports wagers there by using unregulated offshore sportsbooks and illegal bookies, all spending money that essentially leaves the state instead of benefiting the residents there.
Marlene Warner is the executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, and she understands the reality state lawmakers face, telling the media:
Sports betting is alive and well in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, even though it’s not legal. And that’s one of the reasons the Commonwealth wants to legalize it is that you bring it out of the darkness into the light — and then you start regulating it.
It makes total sense, but now the two legislative bodies must figure out how to combine their bills by compromising on some key issues.
The fundamental difference between the House and Senate sports betting bills are that the House bill allows betting on college sports, but the Senate bill does not, a disparity that could create some intense battling between the two sides of this issue.
While those against college sports betting like Warner say that treating 18-year-old athletes “like a commodity to be gambled on” is concerning, the idea of missing out on big-ticket events like the NCAA Final Four tournament might be too much of a financial hit to this new market.
Another key difference between the two bills is the amount of emphasis the Senate bill puts on problem gambling, the industry term for “gambling addiction,” a major factor that those against legalizing sports betting see as a reason to stop either bill from passing.
That is why state Senator Jason M. Lewis thinks his chamber’s version of this bill is superior, saying:
The Senate’s bill will enable Massachusetts to join the majority of other states in permitting legal sports gambling but ensure that our state has very strong consumer protections and seeks to prevent and mitigate problem gambling and addiction as much as possible.
Regardless of which version of the bill moves forward, it could mean a lot of new money for Massachusetts residents.
Industry experts have indicated that the legal sports betting market in the Old Colony State could generate $35 million in annual tax revenue, money that right now is flowing out of the state because MA gamblers are currently using unregulated offshore sportsbooks to place their bets.
Compromise may not come easy to MA lawmakers, but it could be tougher to explain to voters all that lost potential revenue, so expect stances to shift over time, hopefully before the current legislative session ends on July 31, 2022.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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