With Sports Betting Still Illegal in Mass., Residents Are Crossing State Lines

While New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island are among the 30 states that have legalized sports betting, Massachusetts has yet to follow suit

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Massachusetts still has not legally allowed sports betting even though some of its neighbors have.

At Pepper's Pub in Salem, New Hampshire, workers are used to seeing those from Massachusetts drive up to bet legally on sports.

"This is 'Live Free or Die.' If they want to come up, it is OK," Susan Tanguay said while working at Pepper's on Thursday.

In New Hampshire, and 29 other states, it is legal to bet on sports. New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania also allow it.

Sitting at the bar at Pepper's Thursday were Chris Zani of Salem and Steve Sheehy of Methuen. The two friends don't understand why it is taking Massachusetts so long to legalize it.

"I haven't heard anyone losing their houses over it or anything like that," Zani said.

Sheehy, of Methuen, agrees.

"If it would help lower my taxes, I think it is very foolish that they are not doing it," he said.

In 2018, the Supreme Court paved the way to legalize sports betting.

Democratic Sen. Eric Lesser filed a bill that would add Massachusetts to the growing list of states where sports betting is legal.

"There is no doubt there are a lot of people betting on sports," Lesser said. "We do see almost of our neighboring states have some form of legalized sports betting."

Lesser says his bill is currently in the Ways and Means Committee, and if it passes there, it will head to the Senate floor for a full vote.

"Frankly, it is less safe, if it is not legalized here, we can't tax it, we can't regulate it, we can't have eyes on it, we can't make sure it is happening in a safe way," Lesser said. "We are not an island, we are a pretty small state surrounded by a whole bunch of other states, and at this point, almost all of them have done it."

"Massachusetts is surrounded by states that have jumped at the opportunity to legalize sports betting, but Massachusetts residents must still cross state lines to participate. The House has repeatedly passed legislation to legalize sports betting, most recently in July 2021," Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano said in a statement Wednesday.

As recently as the Super Bowl, Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted in favor of legalized sports betting in the commonwealth, too.

According to DraftKings, which notes that it is the only sports betting operator in the Granite State, about 27% of people in New Hampshire betting on the March Madness tournament list their home addresses in Massachusetts.

Back at Pepper's Pub, they're waiting for more madness this March from those looking to bet legally.

"It is crazy, because people are just going to come up here anyway," Tanguay said.

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