Massachusetts Needs a Real Debate on Sports Gaming [OPINION]
Governor Charlie Baker has now proposed the legalization of gambling on professional sports in Massachusetts. His plan is narrow—maybe too narrow.
There are eight states in the U.S. that currently have legalized sports betting in some form or fashion, including Rhode Island. Sports gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Until recently, those billions could only be bet illegally or legally in the state of Nevada.
According to the State House News Service, "existing casinos and slot parlors, including MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge, would be eligible to apply for a license to operate sports betting lounges, and could also contract with outside vendors for online betting. Separately, under Baker's bill, online-only operators such as DraftKings could apply to the Gaming Commission for a license to host sports betting on their web platforms."
The governor's plan would mean no physical location to wager on sports would exist on the SouthCoast, Cape Cod, or the Islands. Under his plan, there would be no gambling at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, or the Garden. You can go watch the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins live but you can't bet on them at the event.
Shouldn't the owners and players on those teams see some of the money that is wagered on them? Without professional teams and the people that make them possible, there would be very little gaming revenue under Baker's plan.
Baker also is looking to keep people from wagering legally on college sports in Massachusetts. He can keep people from betting legally but they will still bet college sports. College football and basketball are still a safe space for organized crime groups under the Baker plan. I believe Gov. Baker is well-meaning with his continuing ban on betting on college sports, but it isn't going to stop that action.
The Baker plan for sports gaming is a nice place to start the conversation, but there are many factors to consider and the state should have an open conversation about this change in our culture.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.