The New England Patriots have thrown their support behind an effort to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, according to a letter from gambling and athletics industry interests pushing Beacon Hill to go forward on the matter before the ongoing legislative session expires.
The Patriots are included among the signatories on a letter released by the Boston-based sports betting company DraftKings. The letter, urging lawmakers to move quickly on an issue that has been in limbo for more than two years, also includes the Boston Red Sox and the management of the MGM Springfield casino.
“Passing sports betting will protect and create jobs here in Massachusetts at a time when many companies have been forced to shrink their workforce. Massachusetts has already lost jobs that could have been housed here by not acting sooner on sports betting,” the letter writers said. It also lists the New England Revolution, the PGA Tour, and the sports betting firm FanDuel as supporters.
The inclusion of the sports organizations in the letter continues a shift that has played out in recent years. Leagues and teams generally opposed sports betting legalization until recently, but are increasingly viewing it as a compelling method of fan engagement — and potential new revenue, depending on how state law distributes the proceeds.
The Patriots did not immediately offer any additional comment. Many of the other organizations included in the letter, including the Red Sox, have previously advocated together for legalization. (Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry is publisher of the Globe.) The Revolution are also a new addition.
At least 25 other states have legalized sports betting, an industry that has exploded since a 2018 US Supreme Court decision allowed the practice to expand broadly beyond Nevada. In Massachusetts, however, lawmakers have not been able to agree on whether to move forward.
Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a bill to allow licensed operators to offer sports betting online and at the state’s three casinos. Another measure passed the House recently as part of a broad economic development package.
Leaders in the House and Senate are now negotiating on whether to adopt it as part of a final proposal that would be sent to Baker’s desk.
Separately, the Senate on Wednesday decided not to include sports betting in its budget plan for the year.
Opponents of the bill argue that there is not a strong case for gambling expansion in Massachusetts, which they believe could increase the threat of problem gambling. Supporters say offshore online gambling is easily accessible here anyway, and that legalization could bring that business into a regulated market that would generate much-needed tax revenue. Various proposals for sports betting have been projected to bring in between $20 million to $35 million annually.
Senate President Karen Spilka this week declined to say whether sports betting was likely to come up again before the legislative session ends in early January. She told State House News Service that she was focused on matters that include the state budget and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, the industry groups said they hope to see sports betting in the final economic development bill, rather than waiting until the Legislature’s next session — which could delay it by months or years.
”We are deeply concerned at the prospect of legislation not being passed this session,” the letter said. “Such an outcome would be detrimental to our businesses, to consumers, and to our Commonwealth, all while providing a major win for illegal, offshore sports betting companies.”
Among the issues that will have to be worked out in a final bill are questions over whether sports teams, leagues, and players get a cut of the proceeds, whether it will be legal to wager on college games — something local schools oppose — and who will be eligible to apply for licenses to run sports books in Massachusetts.
In a separate letter sent to legislators recently, the state’s two other casinos, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and Plainridge Park in Plainville, said most online gambling licenses should be controlled by existing casinos, because they have already made significant investment in the state. They did say that an online operator headquartered here (which would describe DraftKings) should be able to get its own license.
Material from State House News Service was included in this report.