Massachusetts Senate Still Can’t Figure Out How to Approach Sports Betting

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All around Massachusetts, states are embracing sports betting. Some were able to move quickly; others needed a little more time. Massachusetts is trying to set the record for the most amount of time needed to approve legalized sports betting and, at the pace it’s going, it will easily win. The House has already approved a sports betting bill, but lawmakers in the Senate, three months after being given the legislation, are no closer to the finish line.

Massachusetts Tries to Figure Out Sports Betting

Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka has already acknowledged that the chamber “doesn’t have the bandwidth” to consider sports betting, despite the fact that most of the hard work in creating the laws and regulations has already been done. Now, according to Senator Eric Lesser, the chamber is still debating how to implement consumer protection measures. According to the Boston Business Journal, he stated that the House-backed sports betting bill is with the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is “under active conversation,” but is no closer to finding resolution.

Lesser, who co-chairs the state’s Economic Development Committee, added, “We’re doing our best to balance, obviously, the fun of sports betting with some of the elements that we have to keep mindful of and be mindful of when you’re talking about a gambling product. Like any bill, you’ve got a process of working with the duly elected members of the chamber on their different issues and their concerns. When there’s a consensus, when we feel like we’ve gotten to that point, I do feel confident that something will move forward.”

Still No Timeframe for Approval

The issues Massachusetts Senate lawmakers feel need to be resolved have already been resolved by the 30-plus states (as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico) to have legalized, in some form or another, sports betting. Lesser indicated that there are still concerns about certain provisions that were included in the House version, including the use of credit cards for online wagers. Since Massachusetts law already prohibits cash advances via credit cards at its casinos, adding this to online wagering laws seems to be a straightforward and easy process.

The Senate is also having difficulty with college sports. Some want to allow wagers on college games, while others don’t. Some want to allow prop bets on college athletes, but others don’t. There is a concern that allowing athlete-based wagers could be too much of an influence on that individual to take a dive in exchange for money, but this argument has already been mostly negated by the Name, Identity and Likeness (NIL) deals that are now available.

Massachusetts first discussed legalized sports betting in 2018, but has dropped the ball each year since then. The legislation goes on break in just over two weeks and, if something doesn’t happen soon, it’s going to be until sometime in 2022 that progress might be seen. Lawmakers know they’re slow to react, but aren’t willing to embrace the topic with more enthusiasm. When asked if the Senate might respond before the end of the current session, Lesser only asserted that the chamber is “getting close” and wouldn’t provide any definitive goals the Senate may have in place.

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