In order to get ahead of a possible United States Supreme Court decision that opens the door to expanded legal sports betting in the U.S., the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said on Thursday that it would prepare a white paper on sports betting over the holidays to educate state lawmakers, reports the Boston Herald.
“There are a lot of states that are teeing this up,” said MGC Chairman Stephen Crosby, “and if there is a competitive consideration we ought to get the legislature enough of a heads up that if they wanted to prepare … they’d have enough time.”
Indeed, there’s a lot of states looking to be first or second to market in the event that the Supreme Court sides with New Jersey in Christie v NCAA. The high court heard oral argument in the case on Monday, a result of which could be a ruling that PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) — the 1992 federal law effectively banning sports betting outside Nevada — is unconstitutional.
Massachusetts Regulators Preparing Paper to Educate Lawmakers After Supreme Court Sports Betting Case, Aiming to Help State Get Ahead of Market
Crosby’s remarks echo a sentiment permeating through halls in several other Northeast states, including New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, plus West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Some states have legislation already contemplating a federal change, while in other states with existing brick-and-mortar casinos, some lawmakers are dragging their feet a bit.
Massachusetts already has eight land-based casinos and the MGM Springfield, a nearly $1 billion dollar property in the southwestern region of the state (also home to the Basketball Hall of Fame), is set to open around September of 2018. That would come just a few months after a decision from the Supreme Court.
“I would underscore the word ‘cautious’ as being the characterization of our approach here,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Lloyd Macdonald. “Before we spend significant resources on this I think we should wait and see what happens with the case before the court.”
As in other states eyeing legalizing and regulating sports betting, they’ll need to figure out an appropriate tax rate, how to regulate, licensing, and how to manage mobile/online sports betting. Pennsylvania passed a bill in October that would impose an inappropriate tax rate on sports betting gross revenue — 34% — which is nearly five times as high as what Nevada levies on its sportsbooks. (Pennsylvania’s figure will have to change.)
We mention MGM because the company has properties in New Jersey (Borgata) and Maryland (National Harbor), so it is poised to take great advantage of an expanded market in the East and beyond. ESPN has reported that MGM is already preparing a sportsbook at the Borgata and could help position its other properties, including in Springfield, to be ready for operation depending on how state lawmakers decide to proceed.
Obviously the Supreme Court’s ruling and the breadth of its decision on PASPA is a big factor here, but there is nevertheless momentum for a federal solution, which would be separate from or in addition to a favorable ruling from New Jersey. But reading the tea leaves, signs are positive for New Jersey.