Going cautious on sports activities playing in Mass. was ‘appropriate’ method

Colin A. Young

BOSTON – If Massachusetts adults age 21 and older could bet on professional sports in person and online it would generate significant, but not groundbreaking, revenue for the state, a key senator said.

“When done correctly, the idea is to bring sports betting into the light, legalize and monitor it in real time so potential violations or problems can be quickly identified and corrected,” said Senator Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, chairman of the Senate Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee. “It will really be a partnership between these operators and the Gambling Commission to ensure that the whole process is carried out as securely as possible.”

While 25 other states, including neighboring Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York, have already allowed gamblers to place legal bets on sports, Massachusetts has been considering whether to legalize bets in a similar fashion since the US Supreme Court in May 2018 decided that this applies almost nationwide.The ban on sports betting was unconstitutional and gave states the opportunity to legalize the activity.

“Massachusetts has acted fairly cautiously, especially when compared to some of our regional counterparts in the states near us,” Lesser said. “When it comes to that, I think that was probably right because now we could really learn what a lot of states, especially states in the Northeast, have been doing in recent years.”

The Senator’s bill, which is one of about a dozen similar laws filed by last week’s deadline, would put sports betting under the auspices of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and create three different types of sports betting licenses to wager in casinos and gambling on the slot machines to enable salon, on live horse tracks or simulcast centers as well as via mobile or online platforms. Bettors would need to be at least 21 years old and physically present in Massachusetts.

The bill also includes consumer protections to protect against problem gambling, similar to the provisions introduced to casinos in the 2013 Massachusetts gambling expansion. This includes that players can put themselves on an exclusion list and the Gambling Commission is obliged to issue regulations regarding forced gambling and gambling problem gambling.

According to Lesser, one of the most important consumer protection measures is the ban on betting with a credit card.

“The vast majority of people just want to have fun – betting on their favorite sports team is some form of relaxation,” he said. “But of course we know that there are people who might have addiction problems, might have problems.”

Prop betting – betting on things other than the outcome of the game, such as how many strikeouts a pitcher will record in a given game, or which soccer team will win the first coin toss – and in-game betting would be allowed by Lesser, but the Gambling Commission would have to hold a hearing on these types of bets and put some guard rails in place.

No bets will be accepted for individual athletes using wearable technology or if the bet contains personal medical information or player biometric information.

“That kind of came up in discussions with players and with player associations,” said Lesser. “For example, it might soon be possible to have a jersey that broadcasts a person’s heart rate or pulse or blood oxygen levels in real time to someone who can then place a bet based on that biometric information. We thought that was a bridge too far.”

The state-owned casinos and slot machines – MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville – could apply for a Category 1 license that would allow them to offer personal sports betting and accept bets through up to three mobile apps. It would cost a minimum of $ 1 million to apply, then $ 2.5 million if a license is approved, and an additional $ 1 million in license renewal fees every five years.

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