Baker: Massachusetts Should Look Into Legal Sports Betting

Massachusetts officials on Monday began weighing the pros and cons of legalized sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the green light to consider it.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic legislative leaders said they discussed the high court ruling and its potential ramifications for the state during their regularly scheduled weekly meeting. None were willing to commit to a pathway for legally wagering on sports events, with Baker saying a lot more "homework" needed to be done on the issue.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the choice could come down to what he called the "integrity" of any sports betting system versus the potential tax revenue it could generate for the state.

"I think there are a lot of major questions right now to be able to say yes or no," said DeLeo.

Senate President Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, agreed the issue should be considered ``thoughtfully and carefully.''

Neither Democratic leader ruled out action before the July 31 close of the legislative session.

A bill filed earlier this year included instructions that a special commission be created within 30 days of the Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 - as it did on Monday - and that the panel conduct a "comprehensive study" of regulating online sports betting in Massachusetts. That bill, however, has yet to be discharged from a legislative committee.

The same bill sought to make permanent temporary regulations that allow online fantasy sports contests, like those offered by Boston-based DraftKings, to be played in the state.

DraftKings said on Monday it had been preparing in advance of the Supreme Court ruling to launch a sports betting platform and apply for operating licenses in states that move toward legalization.

"It will be a totally interactive experience for the sports fan and the viewership will change from passive, sitting on your couch, to actively engaging and watching while also playing games, betting, chatting with friends and all sorts of things," said Jason Robins, chief executive of DraftKings, during a conference call with reporters.

The wider legalization of sports betting could lead to the company creating more jobs in Boston, he added.

One consideration for Massachusetts, Baker said, would be to gauge the impact of legalized sports betting on the state's first two resort casinos, one in Springfield and the other in Everett, that are scheduled to open in the coming months.

Each of the four major North American sports leagues responded to the ruling Monday.

"The NFL's long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute," the league said in a statement. "Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game."

"We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it," the NBA said in a statement of its own.

The MLB said it "will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports. Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games."

"We will review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed," the NHL added.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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