Massachusetts, Let's Play A Game
In 1934 Massachusetts first allowed betting on horse and dog races. In 2011 the Expanded Gaming Act passed, allowing the first casinos to open. And here we are in August 2020, when it took a pandemic to get the state to reassess sports gambling - something many Massachusetts residents have been eagerly awaiting.
The bill under consideration would enable the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant licenses to casinos, race tracks that already exist, as well as to mobile apps. It’s a win-win, as the state will receive a supple 15% of all betting proceeds, and an additional 1% would go to an integrity fund. The 15% would amount to $50 million, which would then be distributed to a workforce development fund for at-risk youth in low-income/minority communities, a Distressed Restaurant Fund, youth development initiatives and more.
“It would certainly generate revenue,” Charlie Baker told Boston.com, “and it would be something that a lot of people would be interested in here at home as opposed to doing across the border.” As of now, residents must go to neighboring states such as Rhode Island to engage in sports betting.
The bill that included this new form of tax revenue for the state - approximately $35 million annually generated for the Commonwealth - was under consideration at the end of July. The House passed the bill nearly unanimously, but only after the section regarding sports betting was removed, to be considered another time.
While it makes sense to focus on the many specifics and potential repercussions of such a bill, it is a very “Massachusetts” response to the public asking repeatedly for something. Reminiscent of the Blue Laws, which were established in the 17th century to prohibit happy hour alcohol specials and restrict work hours on holidays and Sundays, the slow movement on updating archaic regulations is beyond eye-roll inducing.
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, while everyone was stocking up on non-perishable foods, many were also snatching up Nintendo Switch gaming consoles. Not only did many people have more free time to be playing Animal Crossing, but also game developers were easily able to work from home.
And although sports betting would not have had the same chance to shine in that time, since all professional sports were put on hold for the safety of players, had sports betting been legal it would be a great boost for the state’s funding now as sports come back. The extra revenue it could provide would be welcome for communities suffering from economic devastation of coronavirus.