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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.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry,cthat encourages and facilitates participation in the cannabis industry from communities disproportionally harmed by marijuana criminalization by creating a Social Equity Trust Fund. The bill also strengthens the host-community-agreement process and clarifies procedures for permitting social-consumption sites.

“This legislation will create a more equitable cannabis industry in the Commonwealth, and I am pleased to see it reach the governor’s desk,” state Sen. Jo Comerford said. “I am deeply grateful for the hard work put into this bill by the conferees, led by Senator [Michael] Rodrigues and Representative [Daniel] Donahue. They approached this issue with expertise and compassion, and the resulting bill will bring more diversity and equity to this industry.”

The legislation creates a trust fund to make grants and loans to social-equity program participants and economic-empowerment priority applicants, which will give entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement better access to grants and loans to get their businesses off the ground.

Fifteen percent of the revenue collected from the sale of marijuana and marijuana products must be transferred to the trust fund, which will be administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in consultation with a newly created Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board.

The legislation clarifies the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) role in reviewing and approving host-community agreements (HCAs), which are executed between marijuana businesses and their host municipalities. It authorizes the commission to prioritize social-equity program businesses and economic-empowerment priority applicants for expedited review.

The legislation also clarifies the scope of HCAs and adds new criteria. No host-community agreement can include a community-impact fee that is beyond the business’s eighth year of operation, the community-impact fee must be reasonably related to the actual costs required to operate a cannabis business in a community, the CCC must review and approve each host-community agreement as part of the license application and renewal process, and all host communities must establish procedures and policies to encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

The social-consumption policy, which would allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where sold, is authorized by existing law. However, this new legislation amends it to ensure proper procedures are taken regarding local initiative petitions. Under this legislation, as an alternative to local initiative petitions, a city or town may also allow for social-consumption sites through the passage of a bylaw or ordinance.

In addition, for individuals seeking to expunge a record for previous offenses that are now decriminalized, this legislation requires the court to order the expungement of the record within 30 days of the request and expunge records for possession of marijuana or distribution of marijuana based on the now legal amount.

“Communities of color across our country have historically been criminalized, prosecuted, and left out of the conversation in regards to cannabis legalization,” state Sen. Adam Gomez said. “When cannabis was legalized in Massachusetts, those same communities continued to be barred from the conversation table and left behind, with historic barriers preventing them from growing small businesses in meaningful ways. The legislation passed by the Legislature will remove those barriers while making changes to expedite the expungement process. It is incomprehensible that anyone who was charged with a marijuana-related offense still has that on their record in our state, especially when you can drive down the street to a dispensary to buy the same product that that person was arrested for. I was proud to support this legislation and can’t wait to see cannabis businesses run by BIPOC owners flourish as a result.”

Having been passed by the Senate and the House, the bill now goes to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.

Daily News

BOSTON — In a legislative session that stretched well into the early hours of Monday morning, state lawmakers approved a raft of bills, including the legalization of sports gambling in Massachusetts and action to bolster mental healthcare.

According to the Boston Globe, the gaming legislation allows betting on professional and collegiate sports, but excludes betting on colleges in Massachusetts, unless they are competing in national tournaments. It also bans the use of credit cards to place bets.

If signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts will join 30 states and Washington, D.C., in allowing for sports gambling, according to the American Gaming Assoc.

The sweeping mental-health bill mandates insurance coverage for an annual mental-health wellness exam and ensures compliance with the state’s mental-health parity laws, among other measures, the Globe noted.

However, Massachusetts lawmakers failed to strike a deal on a massive economic-development package, including $1 billion in tax relief, amid concerns over what the state can afford.

Among other action, lawmakers approved language that would retool the state’s firearm laws in the wake of a Supreme Court decision expanding gun rights across the country; approved an $11.3 billion infrastructure and transportation borrowing bill, including $275 million in funding to extend east-west passenger rail service; and approved a compromise package of reforms to the state’s marijuana industry that cracks down on steep local fees and steers a significant portion of the state excise tax on recreational cannabis sales into a fund for disenfranchised cannabis entrepreneurs, the Globe reported.

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