Connecticut and Massachusetts governors have ramped up the fight for legalized sports betting and online gaming in recent months. Back in early 2020, each state had different issues holding it back. Both states had their chances in 2020, but those chances turned into disappointment like everything else in 2020. Such is the Ongoing Saga of Sports Betting in New England of 2020. This post features the expertise of Steve Ruddock from BettingUSA.com. (posted February 2021)
Sports Betters are Excited Over Recent Talks & Legislation
Sports Betting in Connecticut and Massachusetts could have had a “field day” with sports wagering this year. The Patriots’ connection to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay would have inspired rabid wagering. The Big Game could have been Big Revenue for Connecticut and Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this year’s Super Bowl revenue from legalized sports betting is another lost opportunity.
Sports Betting Would Have Been Busy – Patriots Still a Draw
This year’s Super Bowl has strong connections to the New England Patriots. New England residents are barking about it as if Brady was still leading the Pat’s Patriots of old. And then there’s good old loveable “Gronk.” How can we still not have a place in our heart (or liver after his Foxwoods escapades) for the former Patriot’s tight end?
And let’s not forget the big question concerning the last 20 years. “Was Belichick responsible for those six NFL championships or Brady? Or both? This Sunday will provide even more fodder for that discussion.
Massachusetts Legislature and Pro Sports Lobbying
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has introduced new sports betting legislation that would allow licensed casinos and online platforms in Massachusetts to offer online sports betting. Customers could only wager on professional sports, not collegiate, high school athletics, or Esports. In his budget proposal, Baker counted on sports betting revenue for the third year.
The state House approved sports betting legislation in 2020 as part of an economic development bill. However, it died in the Senate when legislators openly said pushing it during a pandemic would not send the right message.
Colin A. Young from MassLive reported that Massachusetts sports teams have been lobbying to push for legalized sports betting. “To use a sports analogy, Massachusetts is collectively keeping our bat on our shoulder in the competition for additional jobs in the innovation economy,” the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, DraftKings, MGM Springfield, FanDuel, and the PGA Tour wrote in a letter to lawmakers attempting to impart the importance of legalizing sports betting in the time that remains until this session ends in early January. The letter was first sent Friday and sent Tuesday again when the Bruins and Celtics joined the coalition.
Baker’s Bill Modeled After New Jersey
Sports betting has been an enormous success in New Jersey. The December sports betting handle for New Jersey was almost $1 billion, a national record. No reason to re-design the wheel in Massachusetts.
The three casinos in Massachusetts would be eligible to apply for a sportsbook license and partner with outside operators for online sports wagering. Online-only platforms could apply to the MGC for a license, as well.
We Turn To An Expert – the Ongoing Saga of Sports Betting in New England
2021 has produced no less than five competing bills to legalize sports wagering and online gambling in the Commonwealth. However, long time friend of NETimeGambling, Steve Ruddock, says, “The remaining policy hurdles appear to be:
- Prohibitions against wagering on college sports
- The overall tax rate and licensing fees
- Market access, from online-only operators like DraftKings to Lottery retailers to sports teams
The state had about a dozen pieces of legislation to choose from in 2019. Those proposals were rolled into a single entity in 2020. That bill never went anywhere, as the upheaval caused by COVID-19 sidelined sports betting talks for most of the legislative session before some last-minute efforts emerged…That said, the Bay State’s big issue could very well be too much choice and the state’s penchant to engage in paralysis by analysis…..Massachusetts being Massachusetts is a problem in and of itself, as the state is well-known for being a legislative quagmire regarding gambling issues.Steve Ruddock, BettingUSA.com
Connecticut’s Continuing Tribal Clash Softens
Let’s face it, this spat has gone on too long to the detriment of Connecticut’s citizens and needed revenue. Connecticut’s number one motivation to legalize sports wagering has become identical to what has driven all other states to take immediate action. Substantial financial losses from Covid-19.
Sports betting, internet gaming, and legalized marijuana are happening all around us. Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or, even worse, underground markets… Online gaming is following every other part of our economy, so I think it’s part of our future.”Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut
So, What’s the Beef?
The Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequot tribes operate Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and Foxwoods in Ledyard, respectively. The tribes insist upon their exclusive rights to run all such betting in the state’s 1991 compact that created the casinos. Under that compact, the tribes contribute 25% of all slot revenues to the state.
A central sticking point is whether sports betting and online gaming are “casino games” as defined in the compact. The tribes’ have insisted their exclusivity on casino games extends to sports and online gaming. If the state allowed other operators into the mix, the tribes would consider it a breach of the compact and immediately end the 25% contribution of slot revenues.
2021 – Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Economics is the main reason for an alliance this time. Connecticut lost about 12,000 jobs related directly to the two large casinos or within their vendors. People are not confident and willing to return to casinos as revenue and visitation continue to decrease. Most all believe 2021 will see a compromise. We once again turn to Steve Ruddock.
Compromise – the Ongoing Saga of Sports Betting in New England
Steve writes, “Yes, [the Pequots and the Mohegans] are the two big players, but Connecticut gambling is multi-faceted, with a state lottery and off-track betting parlors. That helps explain the state’s inability to pass sports betting and online gambling legislation despite tribal support.
The question in Connecticut is can these groups get on the same page, or can the legislature pass a bill that cuts one or more of these entities out?
That will undoubtedly require the tribes to cut the lottery and possibly OTBs into specific forms of gambling. That could mean online lottery products, retail, or kiosk sports betting at OTBs. However, the comprehensive bills give the legislature plenty of wiggle room to strip out some forms of gambling or open it up to some entities.”
Remember the Rhode Island Catastrophe of 2019?
Before Rhode Island had expanded its legal sports betting to mobile status, The Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 that year in Super Bowl LIII. It cost the Ocean State a Patriots-fueled $2.4-million loss on Super Bowl betting due to the crowds of fans finally being able to bet legally on their home team.
At the time, RI Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said, “I’m glad that the Patriots won, obviously, but everyone bet the Patriots, so the state didn’t make too much money on that. We are a victim of our success in the New England area…the sports app is [still] the way to go” Rhode Island is the only state in New England that offers sports betting, and most of the money is wagered on the game was on the nearby Patriots.
Summary – the Ongoing Saga of Sports Betting in New England
Currently, 20 states (including Rhode Island and New Hampshire in New England), plus the District of Columbia, have legal sports betting. Unfortunately, 2020 made it evident that sports betting and online gambling are not just wanted in New England; they are needed economically. Someone must remind all involved that COVID-19 has made this a sprint, not a marathon.
Steve Ruddock Bio
Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player. Additionally, Steve is the content director for BettingUSA and the Editor-in-Chief of Gaming Law Review.
Recent Posts by Steve Ruddock
- Are Two Key New England States Ready To Legalize Sports Betting?
- The State of Online Poker in the US
- A Look At Where You Can Buy Online Lottery Tickets In The US