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With sports betting bills stuck in committee, Mass. will sit out Super Bowl wagering
30th January, 22:07Baker filed legislation in January 2019 to allow both licensed casinos in Massachusetts and online platforms to build their own sports betting operations. But the Massachusetts Legislature is still studying the issue.
BOSTON - Ahead of one of the biggest sports betting events on the calendar, Gov. Charlie Baker acknowledged Thursday that he has failed to make progress toward legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts.
The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans will wager $6.8 billion on the Super Bowl to be played Sunday in Miami between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Most will use bookies or make bets with friends and family, but of the 26 million adults who will place bets, the AGA says close to 4 million will place the bet in person at a legal sportsbook and 5 million will bet through legal and illegal online platforms.
That represents a 25% and 19% increase, respectively, over last year's Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.
Baker filed legislation in January 2019 to allow both licensed casinos in Massachusetts and online platforms like DraftKings to build their own sports betting operations. His bill would limit gamblers to bets on professional sports, excluding collegiate and high school athletics.
But more than a year and a half after the Supreme Court gave states the go-ahead to legalize wagering on athletics, the Massachusetts Legislature is still studying the issue.
"I bring this up on a relatively frequent basis with my colleagues in the Legislature, and I have not made much progress on it," Baker said Thursday during an appearance on WEEI's The Greg Hill Show.
The AGA says that 14 states now offer legal sports betting, including Rhode Island and New Hampshire, with six more states and the District of Columbia poised to open markets in the coming months.
"Right now most of the New England states are either doing it or going to be doing it soon and it seems to me like this is something that's going to become available in most states and Massachusetts should be playing, and people in Massachusetts should be able to play in Massachusetts," Baker said.
The governor mistakenly said that his bill had not yet received a hearing before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, which he called "unusual."
"You're reminding me, I will bring it up again and see if we can't at least get the hearing and engage the discussion," Baker told Hill.
The committee, in fact, held two days of hearings in May on Baker's bill and others filed relative to sports betting where Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy testified.
Whether the Legislature will act on sports betting, and when, remains an open question, but Baker was confident enough about the outcome to write $35 million in sports betting revenues into the $44.6 billion fiscal 2021 budget he filed last week.
Baker was not asked Thursday whether he had a bet on the Super Bowl, but he did call it a "non-event" for New England fans spoiled by becoming accustomed to the Patriots playing in the final game of the season.
The governor did, however, say he was rooting for the Chiefs to win.
"I spent most of my childhood and adult life suffering as a Red Sox fan for decades and I feel for any community that goes 20, 30, 40, 50 years without even getting close to the brass ring," Baker said.
The Chiefs last won a championship in January 1970, making this year's Super Bowl their first appearance in the big game since Super Bowl IV. If the 49ers win on Sunday, the franchise quarterbacked by former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo would match the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl wins at six.