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 has approved a sports-betting bill, and Gov. Charlie Baker has said he will sign it. 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.