It’s now completely apparent that Massachusetts doesn’t want to entertain the idea of opening a regulated sports gambling industry, choosing, instead, to allow millions of dollars to go to neighboring states and offshore books. After state legislators failed to address the subject in its most recent session, there was hope that, perhaps, the issue would be raised in the 2021 session. However, that, too, seemed to be a dead-end after the new budget for fiscal year 2021 showed no revenue coming from a sports gambling market. Now, a push from a surprising source hopes to convince state lawmakers that it’s time to take the issue seriously.
Massachusetts was expected to be one of the first states to introduce a regulated sports gambling market but, going on two years since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed PASPA, lawmakers still haven’t been able to get organized enough to establish the necessary framework. When the state released its budget for the next fiscal year and there was no mention of sports gambling revenue, a number of professional sports teams – in the same organizations that had convinced federal lawmakers to approve PASPA – began speaking out against the state’s continued failures.
The Boston Herald ran an op-ed this Sunday that shows exactly how frustrated sports gambling supporters are in Massachusetts. The state is reportedly missing out on a possible $35-million windfall, a figure projected by Governor Charlie Baker, and lawmakers are apparently willing to ignore the revenue potential. The op-ed piece was written by BetMGM, DraftKings, the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox, as well as a few more, and reads, in part, “Since the spring of 2018, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision, we have worked with you and your chambers to pass consumer-focused sports betting legislation. With sports betting not included as part of the budget process, and after two years of good-faith collaboration on this issue, and the objective absence of any organized opposition, we are deeply concerned at the prospect of legislation not being passed this session.”
The NFL and other sports organizations lobbied to have PASPA introduced and then fought efforts to have it reversed in 2018. However, now seeing the revenue potential that can be scored through partnerships and marketing deals, they have apparently begun to sing a completely different tune. While they try to work with other states to develop mature sports gambling markets, Massachusetts will only be able to sit back and watch as gamblers spend their money in states like Rhode Island or New Hampshire.
In justifying the lack of attention to sports gambling, Massachusetts lawmakers assert that combatting COVID-19 takes precedence. While it’s obvious that exploring how to keep the coronavirus pandemic from getting worse has to be high on the list of priorities, it would appear that lawmakers don’t understand the fundamentals of the economic fallout COVID-19 is bringing. The longer casinos in the state are closed or weakened, more revenue will only be lost. If lawmakers can’t handle tackling several bills at once, especially when one could bring the state $35 million in a year, then perhaps their time and resources aren’t being utilized in the most efficient manner.