While Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all offer legal sports betting, New England peer Massachusetts won’t have it in 2021.
Massachusetts is one of just nine states with a year-round state legislative session, and while over a dozen sports betting related bills are floating around Beacon Hill, coming to a consensus has proven to be an issue. The state, home to DraftKings, has politicians pushing for legal sports betting, but there’s still a bit of a holdup, according to a recent report from MassLive.com.
“This has absolutely been a top-tier issue,” Sen. Eric Lesser, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, said in a recent virtual meeting. “It’s been something many of us have been working on, on almost a daily basis. And there are very active conversations going on.”
College sports betting a point of contention
Even with frequent dialogue, there’s disagreement between members of the committee about whether or not to allow bettors to wager on collegiate sports. Lesser’s proposed legislation excludes college sports betting entirely, while other bills only prohibit wagering on in-state schools . The issue has been one of the key roadblocks to passing legislation for the last several years.
“Why don’t we get started where there’s a consensus?” Lesser said.
You can't say you've been taking Massachusetts sports betting seriously for three months – and still be stuck on college sports being a part of the legislation pic.twitter.com/c89VK9m91W
— Mike Mutnansky (@MutWEEI) October 26, 2021
Rep. Jared Parisella, Lesser’s co-chair, shared concern about the idea of leaving out collegiate sports betting. Parisella fears that consumers will travel across state lines to place wagers if they aren’t able to bet on collegiate teams.
Besides losing money to New Hampshire or Connecticut, the latter of which launched statewide mobile wagering last week, stakeholders have long contended that banning any kind of wagering leaves the door open for the black market to thrive.
Other New England states offer sports betting
GeoComply, which provides geofencing across the U.S. and tracks where bets are being placed from, recently found a cluster of mobile sports betting being placed from a Connecticut shopping center just off I-91 near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border.
Mobile sports betting isn’t yet legal in Maine or Vermont.
In addition to consumers traveling across state lines to wager, Parisella worried about potential revenue losses should Massachusetts only allow gambling on professional sports. MassLive reported that annual tax revenue estimates for legal sports betting in Massachusetts could hover around $60 million. A 2020 estimate from research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming suggests a potential 25% loss of revenue if the state doesn’t allow consumers to legally bet on college sports.
“I personally think it’s time to do something,” Lesser said. “The goal is to get it right.”