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Unfortunately for sports betting proponents in Massachusetts, it looks like momentum will not be following the recent legislative push in many US states and certified voter approval in states including Maryland, South Dakota, and Louisiana.
Many powerful sources have attempted to urge their support. Among them, the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, New England Revolution, DraftKings Sportsbook, MGM Springfield, FanDuel and the PGA Tour sent a letter last Friday to legislators on a conference committee negotiating the final terms of the jobs bill. The lawmakers have been working on the final jobs bill since the House and Senate passed their versions in July.
Part of the letter stated:
Passing sports betting will protect and create jobs here in Massachusetts at a time when many companies have been forced to shrink their workforce. Massachusetts has already lost jobs that could have been housed here by not acting sooner on sports betting.
The joint coalition projected the state could generate as much as $50 million in tax revenue, however, lawmakers had lower projections, closer to $20 million in annual tax revenue.
The House version of the economic development bill included a “sports betting provision”. The Senate did not as Democratic leaders said the jobs bill wasn’t the right place to craft a bill creating a new legal market.
In response, Sen. Eric Lesser, one of the conferees, was quoted at the time as senators rejected the sports betting amendment. He said, “At this specific moment, we need to hold.” Lesser is the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. He serves on the conference committee along with House chairwoman Ann-Margaret Ferrante and others from the House and Ways Committee named in the letter.
Leading the case for Massachusetts legalized sports wagering was David Friedman, senior vice president of legal and government affairs for the Red Sox. He said sports betting is the perfect opportunity for the state to capture some state revenue and regulate a market that operates underground, especially as the coronavirus pandemic weakens the local economy.
Friedman said in an interview with the newspaper MassLive:
Sports betting provides the opportunity for sports teams and, more importantly, for the sportsbook operators to have business here in Massachusetts. It would directly translate into jobs, no question. The illegal, offshore apps still exist, but the chances of finding a sportsbook in the stadium or downloading state-approved sports betting app in the next season or two are becoming slimmer each day.
The push for legalized sports wagering in 2020 had the full support of Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker along with several Democratic legislators. However, with only six short weeks left of 2020, it looks almost certain it will not happen in the year’s remaining days. In a show of support, Baker has added $35 million in revenue projection for the issue into the 2021 fiscal budget.
The governor has gone on record speaking in favor of sports wagering for the state several times, indicating he would sign the legislation. With COVID-19 budgeting and emergency status a current priority, look for the issue of Massachusetts legalized sports wagering to likely occur and get passed sometime within the first six months of 2021.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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