Massachusetts sports bettors looking for legalization this year may be in for a disappointment. Unlike the state’s early embrace of the legal cannabis industry, Massachusetts is still well behind its neighbors in terms of legal sports betting. The rabid sports fan base in MA might serve as an indicator to some that the state is ripe for legalization, however the issues being debated are numerous, and a distinct divide exists between lawmakers that may be difficult to bridge. Some of the issues being debated surround the logistics of operation and regulation (i.e. which state agency or public entity should be in charge, what types of safeguarding and funding should be adopted, etc.). However, the major sticking point for legislators continues to be the legalization of college sports betting specifically.
The split exists between the House and the Senate, with the Senate opposed. The argument for opposition is based on the fact that college athletes
are not paid, nor are they represented by unions, the way pro athletes are. Additionally, senators argue, the revenue from college sports betting would
be insignificant compared to the revenue already brought in by the state’s lottery and casinos, while the effort required to operate the new industry would be significant.
The House, meanwhile, holds that not adopting college sports betting would make MA an outlier, forcing bettors to take their wagers across state lines. As it stands, DraftKings estimates up to 30% of New Hampshire’s sports bets already come from Massachusetts bettors, with more trickling over to Connecticut and Rhode Island. In terms of the revenue argument, House Rep. Jerald Parisella states that the focus of legalization is not about revenue, but rather about “having the activity legalized, regulated, and out in the open.” While both sides make valid points, they have yet to make a compromise. And
according to Colin Young of Statehouse News, who has spoken with members of both the House and Senate on this topic, the remaining issues will not likely be hashed out until a conference committee next summer.