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Senate president to stay away from sports betting legislation because of family conflict

State Senate President Karen Spilka’s son works for Boston-based DraftKings, which is carefully watching what shape expanded gaming could take.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File 2018

Sports betting is no longer banned in the United States, and legislation will undoubtedly follow this session on Beacon Hill, where interested companies like DraftKings are carefully watching what shape expanded gaming could take.

Count Karen E. Spilka, the Senate’s new president, among those being careful, too. The Ashland Democrat will not participate in any legislation specifically related to DraftKings, should any emerge, an aide said, after Spilka disclosed to state ethics regulators that her son works at the Boston-based fantasy sports company. Jacob Loitherstein is a “workplace experience” manager for DraftKings, Spilka said.

Spilka also intends to assign all work related to sports betting or gambling to a committee chair, likely whomever she appoints in the coming weeks to oversee Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.


DraftKings has made no secret of its interest in sports wagering. The day the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban, the company said it wanted to start offering sports wagers. Weeks later, it announced it had reached an agreement with a New Jersey casino to host sports betting offerings.

State records also indicate it intends to keep an active presence at the State House. The company has retained four firms to help it lobby on Beacon Hill in 2019, including Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a firm that has already lobbied for DraftKings elsewhere and counts Major League Baseball, the NBA, and PGA Tour as clients in Massachusetts, too.

Lawmakers have already said they expect sports betting to emerge. Representative Joseph Wagner, who has chaired the House committee on economic development, told a local TV station last year that his hope was to be “ready to go” on the issue to start this two-year legislative session.

That, Spilka’s aides say, is why she sought to dispel “any appearance of conflict” given her son’s position. She is still allowed to participate in matters of general legislation related to sports betting, according to her office.


“In this case, President Spilka believes that since we expect legislation to be filed this coming session on sports gambling, it was important to file this disclosure last year in advance of the coming session,” said her spokeswoman, Sarah Blodgett, of the ethics filing submitted Dec. 21.

Reach Matt Stout at Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.