BOSTON (CBS) – Now that the Supreme Court has thrown out the federal law restricting sports betting to Nevada, will Massachusetts move quickly and cleverly to stake its claim to a newly-legal gambling market and maximize economic benefits for our state?
Don’t bet on it.
An analysis of the potential issues and opportunities raised by sports betting legalization published by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in February hints at the hurdles – self-imposed and external – the state will now face as the gold rush begins, including:
• We’re already behind the eight ball. Legal experts had anticipated a court ruling opening the floodgates, and while many of our most important regional competitors for gambling dollars – border buddies Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York among them – have sports betting laws ready to go, Massachusetts does not.
• We’re notoriously slow movers. When you consider that casinos and slots were legalized here in late 2011, and nearly seven years later, the only open facility is the slots parlor in Plainville, it’s clear our state government is – for better or worse – incapable of the quick reaction that might be necessary here.
• Sports betting could be a boon to the emerging local casinos – or a terrible blow. Wynn, MGM and company will push for exclusive rights to sports betting, but it’s hard to believe that will fly in Massachusetts. In Nevada, you can go to a sportsbook to bet, but up to half of the sports betting is done online or on smartphones. Given what a tech-savvy culture we live in here, and how young the demographics of the sports bettor are, it’s hard to believe we would maximize revenue by restricting sports betting to casino setting that mostly appeal to an older crowd.
• The sports betting pot of gold might not be that full. The Mass. Gaming report points out that the profit margins are low in sports wagering, and the take for the state here could be measured in the tens of millions, not hundreds.
For the third time in less than a decade, the Massachusetts legislature is confronted with a potential source of entertainment revenue that has its social critics and will require careful regulation. Think of the molasses-like casino rollout and the chaotic, delayed implementation of the 2016 legal pot law.
What makes anyone think this will go any more smoothly?