Sports Betting Legalization Effort in Massachusetts Hits a Coronavirus Snag

Sports betting has been barely existing on the map since all major sports leagues in the US, Europe and UK have been suspended to allow the players to self-isolate and prevent the mass gathering of people. During times when people are encouraged, even forced, to stay at home to contain the further spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus, to expect that a state legislature would deal with anything but the health crisis would be naïve. And Sen. Brendan Crighton has no illusions about that, as Legalsportsreport informs.

Timing Questionable

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies reviewed five Massachusetts sports betting proposals, including one from the state governor, only to go on and create one of its own, refer it to the state’s House Ways and Means Committee March 12, recommending its passage, just a day after the NBA announced it had suspended the season.

Though convinced by that time that the sports betting legalization bill had every chance to be signed into law by the end of the year, the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies vice chair Sen. Brendan Crighton sees this now as one very unlikely outcome.

The Massachusetts legislature has not debated a sports betting bill yet, and with its focus pointed at the direction of the health crisis impact, the chance of that debate happening by the end of the year are slim to none. Even that Senator Crighton is expecting the legislature to extend its legislative season past July 31, there is very little chance for legislators to have the sports betting bill as a priority with regards to the ongoing health and economic issues related to the spreading menace from the coronavirus. And he doubts the bill falls into the category to be dealt with urgency during the extended session.

Bill Inclusions

Regarding the bill, Senator Crighton explained that the governor’s proposal excluded betting on college sports, but it would be really hard for the regulator and betting operators to channel people to regulated markets if they were not given the chance to bet on the most popular events in the country wagering-wise. Therefore, the committee’s proposal includes wagering on college sports limited to NCAA Division I, an amendment the state legislature is considered to be more than capable to convince the governor to agree with.

The proposed H4559 will legalize sports betting for the state’s two resort casinos and one slot parlor casino. It makes provisions for 5 online sports betting licenses, as well as a specified license for horse racing tracks aimed at encouraging race track operators to re-open some of the shuttered facilities.

H4559 has an “integrity hotline” that will be accessible by everyone involved in the sports from athletes to coaches and team members as a way to protect consumers. There is a provision for a self-exclusion list for problem gamblers, as well as prohibition for specific types of sports betting advertising such as ads on vehicles and public transportation means.

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