Massachusetts Fumbles the Ball with Sports Gambling Legislation

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Massachusetts lawmakers need to be reminded of what happens when you fail to plan. There have been attempts over the past year to introduce legalized sports gambling, especially as revenue began to drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that energy and enthusiasm have subsided somewhat. Even though Massachusetts isn’t completely free from the clutches of the coronavirus, it doesn’t see a need to dedicate a significant amount of time right now to sports gambling and the revenue it can bring. According to Mass Live, lawmakers apparently feel there is more than enough money coming into the state and sports gambling is no longer high on the priority list.

Sports Gambling Revenue Not in the Cards

Massachusetts lawmakers are putting together the budget for the new 2022 fiscal year and have proposed a total of $47.6 billion in spending, 2.6% more than the previous fiscal year. None of that would be covered by sports gambling revenue, however, as House lawmakers have crunched the numbers and found more money coming in from tax revenue and federal health care reimbursements. The budget, which is 3.9% more than what Governor Charlie Baker put forward this past January, wouldn’t lead to any service cuts or tax increases, and increases the money spent on several projects, including public schools, MassHealth, financial assistance and more.

While the budget proposal looks good on paper, with no new taxes or reductions in public services needed, it also comes with a drawback. It would mean taking $1.87 billion from reserves, which is over 50% of the state’s $3.5-billion stabilization fund. According to House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, tapping into the reserves may be avoided, but no one will know until the end of the fiscal year. He added, “While this is encouraging news and bodes well for our economic outlook, we will have to see what the next few months bring before declaring any sort of victory on this fiscal year.”

A Missed Opportunity to Tap an Untapped Resource

There’s no need to wait until money is desperately needed before padding the wallet. Currently, as has already been proven and accepted in other states, Massachusetts is letting a dedicated revenue stream fall away. Sports gambling is occurring in the state and any potential revenue is being sent outside its borders. If they decide to put sports gambling on the back burner, Massachusetts lawmakers will continue to deprive the state of a guaranteed revenue stream and there is no such thing as a state having too much revenue.

Massachusetts lawmakers have a sports gambling bill in front of them now and it already has support from Governor Baker. Approving the activity would reportedly give the state an extra $35 million each year in sports gambling revenue. House speaker Roy Mariano believes the House could still consider the bill. He acknowledges that “there is potential to get it done in the House,” but the absence of sports gambling revenue from the state’s budget would seem to indicate that there is no longer a concerted effort to legalize sports gambling, at least for now.

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