Racial Equity Enters the Sports Gambling Discussion in Massachusetts

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As Massachusetts lawmakers still try to figure out how and when to introduce a legal sports gambling market, a new legislative initiative is underway to expand how the market works. Two bills have been filed – one in the House and one in the Senate – that would create better racial equity, allowing more commercial entities to be able to apply for a license. Instead of being limited to large companies and existing operators, sports gambling could make its way to bars and restaurants across the state.

Massachusetts Explores New Sports Gambling Options

Massachusetts lawmakers have been grappling with a legal sports gambling framework for probably more time than they should have, but at least their slow pace has brought about positive benefits. Taking a cue from how the state introduced its overly-restrictive legal cannabis market, some lawmakers want to make sure that sportsbooks aren’t limited to only established names. According to Focus Springfield, Representative Orlando Ramos has filed a House bill that would pave the way for small businesses to host sportsbooks. Senator Adam Gomez filed a similar bill in the Senate.

Ramos explains that state lawmakers assumed racial equity would be organically included as legal cannabis began to emerge, but points out that this didn’t happen. As a result, he wants to make sure that it is included in sports gambling, asserting, “We want to get it right this time around with sports betting. Racial equity as well as allowing sports betting to be licensed to restaurants and bars is essential.” Ramos adds, “We have a racial wealth gap in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and across the country … and part of the reason is legislation. Laws that have been passed that continue to haunt us to this day.”

More Flexible Gambling Options in Massachusetts

The idea is to essentially put the sportsbooks where the people are – bars, restaurants and other similar options. Those entities would be eligible to apply for a license and, if approved, would be able to operate a sports gambling kiosk in return for a cut of the action. Other details on how the legislation might work, including costs and approved gambling activity, haven’t been discussed. The sister bills are limited in scope and only address racial equity.

Ramos asserts that the measure has found support among lawmakers, who he said have been “receptive” to the idea. Of course, the first step is to legalize sports gambling, which Massachusetts has had substantial difficulty doing. Discussions have been ongoing for well over a year and, even as some states have gone from concept to implementation in a matter of a few months, Massachusetts still can’t figure things out. Lawmakers have a misguided belief that state residents are different from those in other states and that creating sports gambling legislation requires an approach different to that which has been found in around 30 states that have already finished working on their own sports gambling frameworks.

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