Massachusetts Senate Fumbles on Sports Betting [OPINION]
The Massachusetts Senate missed a golden opportunity to bring additional revenue into the Commonwealth while allowing residents the opportunity to do here what they are traveling to other states to do already: sports betting.
The same senators who approved an amendment that would allow your 16-year-old daughter to have an abortion without your consent or knowledge rejected another amendment that would allow you to bet on professional sports.
There are two key differences between the two amendments:
1. Nobody dies with sports betting.
2. Sports betting generates tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenues for the Commonwealth.
The sports betting amendment was defeated without even a roll call vote being called for. In other words, the fix was in.
Massachusetts was late to the dance when casino gaming took off in New England. As a result, we saw an estimated $1 billion annually leave Massachusetts for the casinos in Connecticut. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, both just a short little jaunt from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were the benefactors.
As Massachusetts slowly got into the gaming game, Rhode Island – tired of watching its residents spend money in Connecticut – decided to compete. Rhode Island offered table games while Massachusetts was still tinkering with a slots parlor. The Ocean State moved quickly to permit a casino in Tiverton and shut Southeastern Massachusetts out of the casino hunt.
Rhode Island and Connecticut now offer sports betting. Massachusetts does not.
Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr sponsored the sports betting amendment. Tarr estimates sports betting could generate between $20 million and $35 million in new annual revenues for Massachusetts. Sounds like a no-brainer to most, right?
When asked by the State House News Service if sports betting could resurface before the session ends in January, Senate President Karen Spilka simply said, "Right now, the focus is going to be on conference committees, resolving the budget, and COVID. We'll see though."
Translation? Don't bet the house on it.
The Senate gave us the likelihood of more abortions, which we don't need, but not the sports betting revenue that we do need. Go figure.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.