Massachusetts Legislators Shouldn’t Sleep on Sports Gambling
The Massachusetts legislature is coming to the end of its session and among the bills waiting for final action is a bill to legalize sports gambling.
For decades, Las Vegas was the only place an adult could legally bet on football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, and other college and professional sports.
Of course, betting on sports elsewhere was a billion-dollar illegal enterprise, despite the laws. Over the years, states have legalized sports betting in varying degrees. Rhode Island has allowed sports betting, with a casino just over the border from Fall River.
The current issue holding up an agreement to get a sports betting bill on Governor Charlie Baker's desk is a dispute between the House and Senate on allowing bets to be placed on college sports.
My first instinct was to side with the more conservative idea to continue the prohibition on betting on college sports rather than allow it along with wagering on professional sports. College athletes are usually adults but barely so. They and their fellow students are still immature and vulnerable to temptation. The lure of a caper and easy money isn't offset by life experience.
However, those pitfalls already exist in the billion-dollar industry that is illegal gambling on college sports. The gangster movie Goodfellas has a murder scene that starts with the words, "Did I tell you about the points we were shaving on Boston College?" That was a dramatization of an actual college gambling scandal in the 1970s, long before the movement to legalize sports gambling was even out of the crib.
It is nearly impossible to protect all adults from common temptations and legal gambling is all the rage today. It makes no sense to leave the enormous college gambling business to the criminal underworld where it currently flourishes in Massachusetts.
People who want to gamble on college sports can go to New Hampshire, Connecticut, or Rhode Island this very day.
There are no public or business reasons worth the estimated loss of around $40 million in revenue to the Commonwealth by the continued prohibitions on college sports gambling. The illegal entrepreneurs will gladly take the millions of dollars from bets on the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and March Madness.
Sports gambling is a brand new legal enterprise for Massachusetts once it's approved. Hopefully the legislature can get it correct from the start.