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Opinion

Editorial

 

It took a few years longer than it should have, but sports gambling finally seems to be a reality in the Bay State.

The Massachusetts Legislature recently approved a sports-betting bill, and Gov. Charlie Baker has signed it into law. If all goes well — something that doesn’t happen often in this state — systems should be in place for sports betting for later this year and certainly by the time the Super Bowl rolls around next February.

This news is cause for celebration in the state’s three casinos, which have been pushing hard for such a measure, and for good reason. Gaming revenues have certainly not been what they were projected to be nearly four years after MGM Springfield opened its doors to great pomp and circumstance. And the lack of sports betting has given gamblers one more reason to cross the border and go to facilities in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Sports betting seemed to always make sense as a way to help these casinos improve traffic, bring more revenue to the state, and add some jobs. But that didn’t stop the Legislature from doing what it does all too often: sit on its hands.

Indeed, state lawmakers tend to overthink these things, if that’s even the right term, and this leads to indecision. It happened with gaming for several years, and it happened with sports betting as well.

After four years of “painstaking work and research,” as state Sen. Eric Lesser called it, the Legislature was able to come to an agreement on a bill providing for both retail and mobile sports wagering, one that will allow betting on college sports, with some restrictions, and also comes with a number of consumer protections. These include a provision whereby, for online and mobile betting, bets cannot be linked to credit cards — a measure implemented to make sure consumers are wagering with funds on hand and not borrowing.

Projections of revenues vary, but the measure is expected to bring in more than $35 million annually. That’s not a huge number, but right now, it’s money that’s going elsewhere, and that the state could put to good use in areas ranging from workforce development to public health.

The state is once again late to the party. But late is better than never — or even later. v

 

Opinion

Editorial

For decades now, Western Mass. has lived in the proverbial shadow of Boston and the Route 128 beltway.

We have our own identity in this part of the state, to be sure, and for the most part, we’re proud of it. But we seem to be forever measuring ourselves against the other end of the state and lamenting what the yardstick shows.

That’s true when it comes to employers, jobs, vibrancy, bright lights, etc., etc. And now, it looks like we can add casinos to the list, even if we shouldn’t.

Indeed, Encore Boston Harbor opened last month to considerable fanfare — and considerable visitation. Area media outlets have been quick to point out that Encore raked in $16.8 million in revenue its first week in operation, nearly as much as the $20 million MGM Springfield took in for the entire month of June.

It’s certainly very early — perhaps too early — to be drawing serious conclusions, but some media outlets are already portraying Encore as the casino with the high rollers and Springfield as home to the casino that is lagging well behind when it comes to revenue projections.

And while it is true that MGM Springfield isn’t logging the kind of numbers company officials projected it would — in 2014, MGM told the Gaming Commission to expect $418 million in gross gambling revenue its first year, and it would now be very hard pressed to break $300 million for that period — early ‘Tale of Two Casinos’ headlines are not really appropriate.

Encore is a much larger casino located just outside one of the most affluent urban centers in the country. It is also literally a stone’s throw from Logan Airport, making it easily accessible to jet-setting high-rollers. It was always expected to generate more revenue than MGM, especially at the gaming tables, as opposed to the slot machines, and it will always generate more revenue.

Rather than look upon this as two casinos — or three when one counts the slots casino in Plainridge — it would be better to view it as the state’s casino industry, one with three important pieces that are all contributing to the state’s overriding goal when it comes to gaming.

And that is to take some of the huge amounts of casino revenue that were going to neighboring states and keep them in the Bay State.

That’s happening, and at the same time, the casinos, and especially the one in Springfield, have become important economic-development pieces, bringing jobs and a spark to sectors ranging from hospitality to commercial real estate.

It was inevitable that there would be comparisons between Encore and MGM Springfield, and the press didn’t waste any time in making them while at the same time fueling the already-obvious disparities in economic vibrancy between east and west.

It’s OK to do this, but it would be better to focus on the bigger picture, and from what we can see, that picture is coming into focus nicely.

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