Legislators from Massachusetts petitioned locals for suggestions on how to help their flagging economy improve following the widespread lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the solutions is to legalize sports betting. A number of advocates resumed their push for a bill to legalize sports betting, which they hope could be passed before the legislative sessions ends on July 31.
The calls were led by David Friedman, who is the senior vice president for legal and government affairs for the Boston Red Sox. Friedman argued in front of members of the Resilience and Recovery Special Committee that legalizing sports bets would help support professional sports teams and gaming firms—two of the industries which have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
According to Friedman, because sports teams will not handle any sportsbooks, the financial benefits for them would likely be modest. Other industries would benefit more if sports betting became legal. Sports teams would benefit primarily through advertising and sponsorship revenue, which Friedman says is sorely needed due to their current lack of revenue streams.
New England Public Media
House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano leads the special committee. Mariano heard testimony on a number of different policies that advocates claimed would help jumpstart the economy.
Friedman was adamant in stating that legal sports betting is the simplest solution to add to any economic development bill. Others who spoke in front of Mariano include Jay Ash, the former secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, now the president and CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and Jennifer James, undersecretary for Workforce Development at the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Friedman’s testimony was just one from a coalition of sectors that support sports betting, which includes the Boston Celtics, MGM Springfield, the PGA Tour, DraftKings and FanDuel.
Sports Betting Bill Still in Limbo
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies introduced a bill (H.4559) in March that would permit those 21 years and above to place bets at live horse racing tracks, casinos, and slot parlors. The bill also allows a limited number of mobile apps to service local punters for online bets. The bill names the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) as the regulator of the industry.
The bill has since been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, but there is still no indication that legislators will be able to tackle its approval before the session ends on July 31. Other priorities for the committee that could surpass sports betting include police reform and public transportation initiatives.