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Lots of talk, if little action, on a Mass. sports betting bill

Senator Eric Lesser co-chairs the committee where several proposed sports betting bills sit.Photo by Steven G. Smith

Given how many issues of a more pressing nature are being debated on Beacon Hill, no sense of urgency surrounds the passage of a sports betting bill in Massachusetts.

Still, discussion about an eventual bill is ongoing, and it seems a matter of when, not if, one will get passed.

“I think people understand that the issue is complicated, and there are a lot of pieces to get right, and we certainly want to make sure that any bill, if there is a bill, that it’s carefully crafted,” said state Senator Eric Lesser Thursday.

“But I do think that there is also a strong black market and that black market needs to be closed and that there do need to be consumer protections. It’s a balancing act, and the committee’s working diligently on it.”


Lesser co-chairs the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies, where a handful of sports betting bills, including one from Gov. Charlie Baker, currently sit after being filed in January. Since the fate of sports betting landed in the laps of states in May 2018, the 50 states have moved at nearly 50 different paces. In the Northeast, New Jersey was an early adopter, with Rhode Island starting up a year ago and New Hampshire on track to begin as soon as early next year.

There’s no telling whether a Massachusetts bill could suddenly gain momentum, and Lesser said the lack of actual legislative progress does not reflect the amount of internal talks on the topic.

“It’s certainly under very active discussion and very active deliberation on the committee,” said Lesser. “We’re certainly watching our neighbors in Rhode Island and New Hampshire and Connecticut and New York very closely; we continue to pay very close attention to what’s happening in New Jersey.”

Lesser did not want to forecast the chances of a bill being passed before the legislative session ends at the end of next July.


“I’m not in the predictions business, and I will not be placing any bets, but what I will say is it’s under active consideration and I have conversations with my colleagues on a daily basis about the issue,” he said. “There is no timetable. We’ll work on a bill and report on a bill when it’s ready.”

Teaming up in rugby

The New England Free Jacks, the first professional rugby team from Boston, announced a partnership with Lasell University. Players and team staff will be offered tuition discounts for undergraduate and graduate coursework, while Lasell students can get involved with the team for internships and other career opportunities.

The Free Jacks, who will open their first season in Major League Rugby with games at Union Point Stadium in Weymouth in February, also will have access to Lasell fields and facilities.

“This is an exciting partnership that will provide meaningful professional experiences for Lasell students, while offering Major League Rugby players diverse learning opportunities on the Lasell campus and through our online programs,” said Lasell vice president for graduate and professional studies Eric Turner in a statement.

“We are delighted to partner with the Free Jacks to launch this initiative which reflects our commitment to connected learning and our belief in the benefits of real-world experiences.”

Free Jacks CEO Alex Magleby also heralded the collaboration: “We are very pleased to align our team with such an innovative institution. This collaboration will serve our team and Lasell students in ways that are real and long-lasting.”


Powering up

Esports devotees, both professional and amateur, will soon have a brand-new space to practice their skills.

The Helix eSports gaming center, an 18,000-square-foot facility located at the Kraft family-owned Patriot Place next to Gillette Stadium, will open in January in the former Showcase Live space next to the movie theater.

The Boston Uprising, the local squad of the international Overwatch League whose next season begins next February, will have a private, dedicated practice space within the facility. For the public, there will be 100-plus gaming stations “complete with PCs, top-tier gaming and network infrastructure and over 30 consoles open to the public daily for social, school, competitive and casual gameplay,” along with “immersive virtual reality games, according to a press release from Kraft Sports + Entertainment.

An announcement is still to come on where the Uprising will hold their two weekend homestands next year, April 25-26 and June 27-28.

“With the Uprising’s move to Boston, we wanted to provide the team with a first-class practice facility and give our fans unprecedented access to their home team,” said Jen Ferron, chief marketing officer for Kraft Sports + Entertainment, in the statement.

“This new partnership with Helix eSports will accomplish both of these goals by providing our fans with access to our team and players through onsite events and appearances, while allowing the Uprising to practice from a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Patriot Place.”


Helix will place an emphasis on education, with school and recreational leagues, camps, workshops, plus STEM, esports, and vocational education opportunities and a curriculum for esports industry certification.

Getting in the game?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly is interested in buying an NFL franchise, according to CBS Sports. The Redskins, Seahawks, Broncos, and Lions are the early speculative candidates . . . The biggest losers in the ongoing NBA/China flap are, unsurprisingly, the Houston Rockets. It was a tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong democracy supporters that began the flap. Rockets games are no longer broadcast in China, and the team’s former Chinese star, Yao Ming, is said to be deeply upset with them. According to ESPN, league sources report that the club has lost more than $7 million from canceled sponsorship agreements and will lose close to $20 million once canceled multiyear deals are calculated . . . If you need to indulge a hankering to bet on esports, you no longer have to fly to Las Vegas. New Jersey is now accepting esports bets, according to EGR Global. And according to US Bets, wagers may be allowed in the US on next year’s World Chess Championship.

Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB