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THE ARGUMENT

Should sports betting be legalized in Massachusetts?

YES

Brendan P. Crighton

State senator, Lynn Democrat

Brendan P. Crighton
Brendan P. Crighton

More than 20 states have legalized sports betting, including our neighbors in New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and it’s time that we do the same in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts residents driving across the state border to place bets has become commonplace. We have an opportunity to gain revenue currently lost to other states and off-shore betting websites while prioritizing strong consumer protections.

I recently reintroduced legislation (SD.177) to legalize sports betting and create a licensing system for both in-person and online platforms for casinos, slot parlors, horse racing tracks, simulcast facilities, and digital operators. This is one of several proposals offered by legislators and Governor Charlie Baker.

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My bill creates a framework to generate revenue for a strong economic recovery. It would establish an initial $10 million licensing fee, likely garnering nearly $100 million for the Commonwealth before a single bet is even placed.

It would also create a reliable stream of recurring revenue for investments in key areas such as housing, education, and transportation. A 2017 study cited in a Massachusetts Gaming Commission report estimates that creating a competitive marketplace for sports betting, similar to the approach proposed in this bill, would generate up to $61.3 million for the Commonwealth annually.

Under my bill, the commission would oversee the sports wagering market, which is critical for maintaining strong consumer protections. The commission has a proven track record of promoting responsible gaming through such means as improving gambling literacy, robust vetting of licensees, and technological safeguards. Additionally, the bill requires each new licensee to contribute $1 million to the state’s Public Health Trust Fund annually to support the commission’s research on consumer protection.

The reality is that sports betting is already a thriving industry in Massachusetts, but operates in an unlicensed and unregulated black market devoid of consumer protections.

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The Legislature has engaged a diverse group of stakeholders, held comprehensive hearings, and carefully analyzed the impacts of sports betting legalization in other states. We are well positioned to create a national model for legalized sports betting that brings an industry into the light that has operated in the shadows for far too long.


NO

Les Bernal

National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling; Lawrence resident

Les Bernal
Les BernalHandout

Do you think that children in Massachusetts should be exposed to an onslaught of gambling advertising by big online gambling corporations?

If you answered ‘no,’ then you need to contact your state senator and representative today and call on them to oppose all legislation allowing Internet and other gambling on sports in the Commonwealth.

Online sports gambling and massive gambling advertising campaigns are inextricably linked. Relentless gambling advertising on television, social media, radio, and streaming platforms is undeniably what lures people to betting. You can’t permit internet sports gambling without a blizzard of gambling advertising invading the lives of Massachusetts residents, including young people.

How do gambling ads affect children? Bombarding kids with gambling ads normalizes and desensitizes them to the dangers of commercialized gambling. It also makes them more likely to develop problems later in life. Young people grow up mistakenly thinking this is a harmless activity.

In the United Kingdom where the government has effectively encouraged sports and other Internet gambling, children have suffered through a constant stream of gambling advertising. Carolyn Harris, a British Labor MP, last November said a new report on the prevalence of gamblng among young people showed that “Britain is suffering an epidemic of child gambling,” the Daily Mail reported. Earlier that year, Harris told The Guardian, “Those who are targeted today will be the problem gamblers of tomorrow. It’s time they [gambling firms] realized the harm they’re doing via this indoctrination.”

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The Daily Mail in 2018 cited research that “more than half of 16-year-olds have gambling apps on their smartphones – two years before they are legally allowed to place bets.” It also cited a study showing that about half the teens surveyed said some television ads “made gambling look like a good way to make money.”

The UK experience is relevant to Massachusetts because some of the gambling operators active in this state have partnered with gambling companies operating in the United Kingdom.

To prevent an epidemic of child gambling, Massachusetts state legislators should strongly oppose the current push by gambling companies (cq) and others to welcome commercialized sports betting to our state. Kids are worth more than money.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.

This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.