Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has expressed optimism that the state will open the doors for sports betting in 2020, but lawmakers have voiced concern that a measure will be passed by the end of the year.
Sen Eric Lesser, the state Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, told the Boston Herald that the Governor’s timeline might not be met and that a further delay is likely.
“We’re watching New Hampshire closely, just as we watched Rhode Island closely,” said Sen. Lesser. “We’re keeping a close eye on it. The timeline and the committee’s work will be determined by our members and the substance of what we’re going over.”
Despite having multiple bills on the table, lawmakers have yet to find a singular path to bringing sports betting to the state. With New Hampshire and Maine already enjoying the revenue benefits of legalized sports betting, the pressure is on the Massachusetts legislation to find a way to appease wagering fans.
The legislature won’t adjourn until July, so lawmakers have several months to explore their options, but a slower approach will definitely stunt Gov. Baker’s hope of legalizing betting by the middle of 2020.
The handful of proposed bills are currently being discussed by committees in the House, but the details of their review have been vague thus far. Representatives like Brad Hill, the House assistant minority leader, believe that sports betting will receive a healthy push before the July deadline due to the increase in funding for education and transportation.
“To say I’m disappointed we don’t already have something would be an understatement,” said Hill.
“When Rhode Island passed it, I thought we would push quickly but that didn’t happen. I know there are issues when you implement sports betting, but we have enough information now to adopt some form of sports betting here in Massachusetts. We should be able to do something soon.”
Massachusetts has three casinos in the state that would happily accommodate a quick turnaround for sports betting. With two surrounding Boston and a third in Springfield, the casinos would undoubtedly see an uptick in traffic with sports betting.
But for residents in the state without quick access to the three casinos, the state could allow online betting that would make wagering easy for those who want to bet from the comfort of their homes.
The nearby state of New Hampshire, who recently legalized sports betting, is offering online wagering to in-state customers, offering Massachusetts a blueprint to designing their final bill.
Another New England state, Rhode Island, has been disappointed with their initial returns but lawmakers in the smallest state in the United States, are pleased with the additional tax revenue and express optimism for growth in future years.
Whatever path Massachusetts legislators choose to take their sports betting measures, the pressure is on to find a simple to use a plan that will create millions in annual revenue. The clock is ticking on Gov. Baker’s prediction and his administration would love to see a bill hit his desk in time for betting to begin at the open of football season in the fall.
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