Can Political Hopes Lead To Legal Sports Betting In Massachusetts?

Sen. Eric Lesser of Massachusetts wants to legalize Massachusetts sports betting. He also wants to be the state’s next Lieutenant Governor. So, which goal does he hope to reach first?

Sports betting legalization, says the Longmeadow Democrat. 

“My hope is that we can get that done long before the campaign,” Lesser was quoted as saying by MassLive on Jan. 4. “Keep in mind the election is 10, 11 months from now.”

It’s an attainable goal.  Lesser already has online and retail sports betting bill pending in Senate Ways and Means, or Senate budget committee. The proposal, S.269, was referred to the committee in July 2021 but has a chance to become law this year.

Could Lesser’s Statewide Run Help Massachusetts Sports Betting’s Chances at Passage?

Massachusetts S.269 would allow licensed retail and online sports betting at casinos and racetracks, with up to three individually branded apps per casino and one per racetrack.

Additionally, up to six online sportsbooks not tied to casinos or tracks would be competitively-bid by the state under the bill.  Tracks and casinos could choose to partner with the competitively-bid sportsbooks, per state gaming commission approval. 

Lesser is expected to continue  pushing for passage of S.269 this year. There’s certainly time for him to get something done in the Senate – that is, if Lesser decides to keep his seat for at least a few more months. 

Action on any pending sports betting bills is possible in the Massachusetts legislature before its formal session ends around July 31 this year.

But an early departure from the Senate by Lesser could have its benefits.

“It’ll absolutely be something I talk about on the trail,” Lesser told MassLive on Jan. 4, after announcing his candidacy to become Massachusetts’ second-in-command. 

Another bill pending in the Senate is H.3993. That bill passed the House on July 23, 2021.

Statehouse Media Anticipate 2022 Massachusetts Sports Betting Debate 

Statehouse news reporters on Beacon Hill seem to think 2022 is the year that legal sports betting could see real debate in the Bay State. 

In a Jan. 4 interview with GBH Morning Edition, WGBH statehouse reporter Mike Deehan said he thinks legal sports betting will come up for discussion this session. Right now, he said most enthusiasm for passage is in the House, not the Senate. 

Still, Deehan leaned toward the possibility of some kind of legislative action on sports betting during this year’s formal session. 

“I think sports betting is definitely something that’s going to be coming up,” Deehan said. “Really, the pressure is sports betting from these outside industries. Massachusetts might be seen as falling behind.”

What’s At Stake If Massachusetts Sports Betting Bill Doesn’t Pass?

Massachusetts is falling behind many of its neighbors in the Northeast Region when it comes to legalizing any form of sports betting. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have mature betting markets. New Hampshire has legal online betting even if only from a restricted platform. More recently both Connecticut and New York launched online betting. New York garnered attention for being the most successful launch of mobile betting in any US state.

And, even Maine is attempting to get in on the action. It’s becoming increasingly easier for Massachusetts sports fans to cross state lines to bet, draining potential revenue from the Massachusetts fisc.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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