Massachusetts Commissions Study on Sports Betting

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An American flag flies over the Fenway Park grandstand in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Massachusetts politics is a different breed of cat. Everyone has their hand out and things move at a glacial pace unless it’s a special interest that will reap plenty of Twitter applause and political collateral. Sports betting is now mainstream a-okay so there are no holy rollers preaching fire and brimstone, protecting their constituency from the evils of gambling.

But the thing is, sports betting is only high-priority to a relatively small audience which means the pols in the Bay State believe their agendas would be better focused on exchanging political favors and jockeying for membership on one committee or another. High-priority is the operative term because most people in Massachusetts would have no objection to sports betting but would not necessarily be downloading the DraftKings sports betting app the moment it went live.

To be fair we must note that in July of this year the Massachusetts House voted 156-3 to approve a bill that would legalize and license sports betting in the Bay State. Unfortunately, the Senate has treated the bill with about as much enthusiasm as a Kardashian at a Mensa convention.

But more to the point, billions of gambling dollars had been traveling south to Connecticut tribal casinos for nearly 25 years before Massachusetts finally got smart and decided to license a few of their own and keep that money in the Commonwealth. Imagine an entire legislative body sitting on their hands for a quarter of a century before greenlighting casinos of their own. What we have now is just more of the same insouciance that Massachusetts residents have come to expect from their legislators.

Lo and behold, a study has been commissioned by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to study sports wagering legalization by the SEIGMA (Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts) research team. Massachusetts is big on commissions which is always a convenient way to hire political allies and keep the political machine spinning.

All the Mass legislators need to do is look at the revenues being hauled in on a monthly basis by the northeastern states that have legalized sports betting.

Do Massachusetts taxpayers really need to foot the bill on a study that will essentially reveal that a very small percentage of people are at risk of compulsive gambling while the tax revenues generated would fund a gambling hotline and bring in oodles of dough to the Bay State? No, but political cronies will make a year’s pay for rendering exactly those findings.

Let’s hear Mark Vander Linden, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission director of research and responsible gaming, explain it in bureaucratic terms, “An analysis in this area would be done to take a look at, obviously leveraging [a previous National Council on Problem Gambling] study, looking at other data that may exist in other states, looking at how legalization has been rolled out in those states, and combining that would allow us to have a better understanding of the likely impacts of the legalization of sports wagering in Massachusetts, should it be legalized, as well as what would be kind of a guiding path towards measures to mitigate that harm,”

The SEIGMA research team will be expected to render their findings by June of 2022 and at some point, Massachusetts state senators will get onboard and legal bookies will be taking action in the Commonwealth. It will happen sooner or later (most likely later) but in the meantime, Massachusetts sports bettors will be traveling north to New Hampshire or south to Connecticut and Rhode Island to put money in those coffers while Massachusetts state senators blithely find other, “more important”, things to do.