Massachusetts Gaming Commission Greenlights Sports Betting Study

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Massachusetts regulators today gave the go-ahead to a research study that could guide decision-making on Massachusetts sports betting issues in 2022.

The study will examine the legalization of U.S. sports betting in 32 states where the industry is now authorized by law. All research will be completed by the University of Massachusetts–Amherst under an existing agreement with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which asked for the study. 

Members of the commission said that they would like the research report to be completed no later than June 20, 2022.

Approval came one day after Massachusetts state lawmakers began a seven-week formal session break without a Senate vote on two sports betting proposals pending for months. One of the two bills passed the state House by a wide margin in July 2021.  

Massachusetts lawmakers are not expected to vote on substantive matters again until around Jan. 5, 2022. 

More Detail On The Sports Betting Research Study 

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission selected the sports betting legalization study topic from a list of five possible topics presented by Mark Vander Linden, the commission’s director of research and responsible gaming. Other topics included problem gambling assessment, problem gambling causes, how casinos benefit host communities, and uses of mobile phone location data. 

Speaking in favor of the sports betting study was Commissioner Brad Hill, a former member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives who resigned from the legislature in Sept. 2021 to accept an appointment to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by Governor Charlie Baker. 

Hill proposed his own sports betting legislation this year as a member of the Massachusetts House. 

“I think this is going to be the issue that we’re going to be all dealing with in the very near future and the more information we can get the better to help us as we come up and make our decisions,” Hill was reported as saying by the State House News Service today. 

Next Steps For Massachusetts Sports Betting

Although the chance to legalize Massachusetts sports betting in 2021 seems to have now passed, at least one state lawmaker says he thinks the Bay State is close to acting on legislation in the Senate.

That lawmaker is Sen. Eric Lesser, co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and sponsor of one of the two sports betting bills pending in the Senate. Lesser said during a State House News Service virtual forum on October 26 that he expects the Senate to take action after key details are worked out between the state Senate and House.

“I do think we’re getting close, but I do think, front of our minds and a big priority for me, is going to be making sure those consumer protections and game integrity issues are really front and center,” said the Longmeadow Democrat.

Bills now pending are technically in play for two years, allowing both chambers to act on current bills into next year.  Further delays, however, will push a Massachusetts launch back further into 2022.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region 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, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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