Massachusetts Likely to Advance Sports Betting Bill as Part of Broader Economic Plan

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Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Pictured: Fenway Park

The odds of sports betting in Massachusetts have improved over the last few days.

A bill that would legalize sports betting in the state will likely advance in the Legislature within the next week as part of an economic development bill.

Including the sports betting bill as part of a bigger package could be a key way of moving the bill along faster.

By adding it to another bill, sports betting could gain support from members of Legislature who have keyed in on other areas.

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“There are things in that larger piece of legislation that those legislators want, things for their district that’s important to them,” political consultant Tony Cignoli told MassLive. “They wind up voting for the sports betting piece too as a necessary vehicle for them to get what they need in that package.”

The bill is expected to pass in the House with support but isn’t a sure thing to pass the Senate, according to sources cited by MassLive.com.

David Friedman, the senior vice president of legal and government affairs for the Boston Red Sox, said he believes legalized sports betting could help both the state and the state’s beloved baseball team.

With a shortened season, sports betting could help the Red Sox engage with a new fan base while offering a little financial relief for a season that won’t include ticket sales or concession earnings.

“Our revenues have fallen off a cliff,” Friedman told State House News Service. “The direct financial impact and revenues of sports betting for teams is relatively modest. We won’t be running a sportsbook ourselves. But today, every single extra dollar of advertising and sponsorship revenue is extremely important for us.

“As you consider potential items for an economic development bill to spur recovery during this pandemic, we believe that mobile sports betting is low-hanging fruit.”

With a budget deficit hovering around $6 billion, legalized sports betting could help make a dent, though it won’t solve the problem entirely.

Governor Charlie Baker has long been a proponent of legalizing sports betting in the state, which will likely only help the bill moving forward.

If things go well, Baker wants Massachusetts residents to engage in sports betting within state borders instead of traveling to New Hampshire or Rhode Island, which recently removed mandates requiring in-person registration for online betting.

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