In sports crazy Massachusetts, restaurant and bar owners want sports fans to be able to have a chicken wing — or a cup of chowdah — with their sports bets. In a state that is home to two reigning professional league champions, it is nearly impossible to exist without being able to talk sports. So, why not be able to put your money where you mouth is when you’re at your local bar watching the Red Sox or Patriots?
As state legislatures across the country continue to discuss sports betting, a certain group wanting a piece of the pie is getting louder. That’s right, bars and restaurants are looking for a piece of the action. The latest group to organize in the hopes of adding sports betting to their menu is a small group in Western Massachusetts called Fair Play Massachusetts, according to Mass Live.
But they’re not the only ones. In Washington, D.C., which legalized sports betting in December, bars, restaurants, and even corner stores will be able to apply for sports betting licenses. D.C.’s model would allow for sports betting pretty much everywhere that is not federal land in the city, though the D.C. Lottery will have a monopoly on mobile sports betting, unless a patron is within the confines of a sports arena, bar, or restaurant that has contracted with a mobile sports betting operator.
Massachusetts wouldn’t be first to embrace sports betting in bars/restaurants
The application fee for licenses in D.C. is a sliding scale based on what an establishment would want to offer. For example, it will be pricier for a restaurant to apply for a sports betting license and offer mobile sports betting within its walls than for a corner store to offer sports betting through a lottery-owned kiosk.
According to a December Washington Business Journal story, at least two District bar owners are ready to apply for sports betting licenses.
“It would stupid for us for not to look into this,” Fritz Brogan, owner of the Mission Navy Yard, told the Business Journal.
In Montana, as sports betting legislation is working its way through the state capitol, the Montana Tavern Association has been vocal in wanting to legalize sports betting in bars and restaurants as a way to drive traffic through the doors. The idea would be to put kiosks into bars and restaurants and potentially require patrons to register in person at the kiosk in the hope that once a bettor has walked into the bar or restaurant, (s)he will stay and spend.
On-site vs. Mobile fight key to sports betting question in Montana https://t.co/Z7rv581Koz
— Montana Tweets (@Montana_Tweets) February 5, 2019
Betting on brick and mortar in Montana
“We want to see sports betting grow the Montana economy,” John Iverson, the Montana Tavern Association’s government affairs lead counsel, told MTN News earlier this month. “If we allow full mobile, internet-based sports gambling, you’re going to take a big chunk of Montana money and send it straight out of state. There’s not a significant amount of tax revenue that comes from sports betting, and so where the state’s going to win is to create more commerce in Montana, create more jobs in Montana.”
From a boots-on-the-ground perspective, Kirk Dehler, who owns the Enterprise Casino in Billings, has already seen a bump in business from offering pari-mutuel horse race betting. He believes sports betting will be another way to help grow his business.
“It’s been a really good thing to get people in the door,” Dehler said. “It’s just having that little niche that brings people in the door and keeps them around.”
Local lawmakers are aware of the push, and took the Montana Tavern Association’s concerns into account when crafting legislation.
“A lot of bars and restaurants are losing patrons,” Montana Representative Kenneth Bogner told Sports Handle in December. “So they want people to come in … so that would be a reason” to allow it.
Massachusetts food-and-beverage entrepreneurs aren’t any different than their Washington or Montana counterparts. They view sports betting as yet another way to put, and keep, butts on the seats in their establishments.
A group of bars have formed an organization to advocate for inclusion as Massachusetts moves toward the legalization of sports betting this year #MALeg https://t.co/EuVaUUNcxZ
— DMGS (@DMGSLLC) February 9, 2019
None of the bills currently circulating around the Massachusetts state house specifically call for allowing sports betting in bars or restaurants. But they’re still a ways from passage and subject to amendment, and restauranteurs are getting vocal about the opportunity.
“It gives people a way to enjoy the game in a safe and healthy way,” restaurant owner Billy Stetson said on the group’s Facebook page. “People are going to sports bars anyway to watch the game, so why not give them a piece of the pie?”
In an ever-changing entertainment landscape, bar and restaurant owners are looking for a variety of ways to get customers through the door. Steton’s Rumbleseat Bar & Grill is located in Springfield, where gaming giant MGM opened a casino last summer that houses half-a-dozen restaurants. It’s a good bet that just like when mom-and-pop shops get pinched when a Walmart opens across the street, that Stetson and Joe Sullivan, owner of Nathan Bill’s, also in Springfield, will feel a bit of a squeeze.
“If it is going to be legalized why not allow us to take wagers? The technology is present with the infrastructure the Lottery has now,” Sullivan said in a press release that was posted on Fair Play’s Facebook page. “Giving our adult patrons a safe and legal place to maybe throw down a little on a game while also enjoying the game at our establishment will help us in a big way!”