All bets are on
Legalized sports betting may be on its way to Massachusetts
Way back in 2005, when casino gambling in Massachusetts was still just a twinkle in Bob DeLeo’s eye, Gary Loveman, the Harvard Business School prof-turned-casino-pitchman regaled the region’s business bigs at a downtown luncheon of the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club.
Loveman, then the chief executive of Harrah’s Entertainment, talked with the unbridled confidence of a late-night infomercial salesman of how casinos were completely revitalizing former economic backwaters like Joliet, Illinois.
At the time, the prospects for casinos in Massachusetts did not seem particularly bright, with then-House speaker Sal DiMasi dead set against the idea. But Loveman said if things changed, he stood ready to answer the higher call of duty. “My humble company would be honored to serve,” he said.
A similar eagerness toward selfless sacrifice is now washing over various outposts in the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for states to legalize sports betting.
“I think Massachusetts needs to be thoughtful about its approach to the issue, but I think a consensus is emerging that the time has come to do something,” state Sen. Eric Lesser, the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, told the Globe.
That was a quick consensus.
But what that “something” might be is anyone’s guess. Or bet.
“I think there’s a place for it,” Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins, told the paper about sports betting. And that place, he added, should definitely include a cut for him. “[I]f they are going to gamble on your sport, I think you should be compensated for it.”
Those running the state’s new casino industry, shockingly, think their facilities are best suited to handle any sports wagering that comes online.
But how can you look past the most experienced hands, asks Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer at largely moribund Suffolk Downs, which still does a healthy business in off-track bets. Suffolk Downs is already in “the legal betting business” and would be “ready to go as soon as, if not ahead of, a lot of the other wagering businesses in the state,” Tuttle said.
Then there are the sports fantasy sites like DraftKings, which certainly don’t want to be left at the gate.
Of course, the state could also decide to keep the business in-house and set up the state Lottery as the sports bookie.
“The engagement is unbelievable,” Jacobs said of places where sports betting is allowed.
Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald does not disagree. But he says the engagement of sports gambling would only mean more destruction of “marriages, homes, careers, and reputations.” A Herald editorial also throws up a caution flag and says there would be “real human casualties” to allowing sports gambling.
Fitzgerald says it will also open the door to all sorts of shenanigans on the part of athletes.
“It’s bad enough to have to wonder if your favorite team tanked the outcome of a game in jockeying for a better playoff position or higher draft choice,” he writes. With legalized sports betting, “it’s not hard to imagine the windfalls that could be surreptitiously offered to players capable of choreographing an outcome.”
If Massachusetts jumps in, the state may start out running from behind. New Jersey officials say they’ll have sports gambling up and running by Memorial Day, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has included $23.5 million in sports gambling revenue in her next budget.Meanwhile, the one sure bet, gambling expert Clyde Barrow tells the Globe, is that consultants will “make a lot of money doing studies.”
“It’s going to be a free-for-all,” he says.