Bay Staters are still waiting on word for when they can lay down their bets.
When the Supreme Court in May struck down the federal ban on sports gambling, many Massachusetts residents wondered when their state might step into the fray. There’s been little word on legal sports betting in the Bay State in the weeks and months since, though.
While some states, like Rhode Island, moved fast and are expected to open sports books soon, Massachusetts is playing the long game — which could mean ultimately leaving it up to the federal government to figure out the details.
“Congress could always re-enter this space,” Michael McCann, director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said in an interview with NESN.com. “That’s a big part of the story. … States have this opportunity to pursue sports betting, but it’s not inconceivable that there’s another federal law on this at some point.”
Some sports leagues have lobbied for the federal government to have strict control over how sports betting is regulated, while several want states to collect fees to help account for the cost of monitoring corruption.
But Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen P. Crosby and three of his colleagues in other states believe regulation should be handled by individual states.
“States and tribal gaming regulatory agencies have the capacity, resources, and ability to oversee the regulation of legalized sports betting,” the group recently said in a statement, via The Boston Globe.
Through all the red tape, however, most bettors just want to know when they will be able to legally place bets on sports. The short answer is for Massachusetts is, not in the immediate future, as state politicians have all but ruled out passing legislation before the end of 2018.
In May, state House Speaker Robert DeLeo said “it would be very, very difficult” to foresee legislative action being taken before July 31, when the final lawmaking session of 2018 ends.
Expect the state to revisit the issue when legislators reconvene in 2019, though.
“The approach here is to move this to the front burner, but to not move so quickly that we get it wrong,” Rep. Joseph Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat as well as the chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, told Mass Live in June. “It won’t be taken up perhaps for formal action in this (session), but the work will begin immediately. The work has already begun.”
“(We don’t) really think we’re behind the curve on this,” Wagner added, via MassLive. “We will get about the work of this quickly so that when we do convene for the 2019-2020 session we can be ready to go. That would be the hope and the potential game plan.”
If and when the state pushes legislation through, life for gamblers won’t change overnight. Furthermore, until the language of the legislation is known, it’s difficult to precisely forecast what sports betting will look like in Massachusetts.
In Rhode Island, for instance, sports gambling will be run by the state lottery, occur only at casinos and will not be allowed online. That’s somewhat similar to Delaware and could emerge as the most common model in these early days of legal sports wagering.
Just because it’s the favored model for now, however, doesn’t mean that will be the case in a year or more when Massachusetts begins setting up its own plan. Prospective gamblers want answers sooner, rather than later. But it seems certain that legal sports betting coming to Massachusetts is a matter of when, not if.
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