Sports betting bill refiled, seeks more revenue

Sports betting is back.

State Sen. Brendan Crighton, a Lynn Democrat, reintroduced a bill this week to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, reviving a debate that died without action at the end of the last legislative session.

“Looking at the states around us, folks are going to bet on sports whether or not we legalize this, but right now the money’s going to the black market and to other states,” Crighton said in an interview with CommonWealth. “With the black market, you’re not getting any consumer protections. We think it’s important to bring people out of the shadows into the regulated market.”

Last summer, the Massachusetts House voted on a bill to legalize sports betting. The House then included sports betting in its version of an economic development bill. But the Senate never held a vote on the policy, and it was left out of the final version of the economic development bill.

The lead Senate negotiator, Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, said at the time that the Senate would “like to do sports betting,” but the economic development bill was not the right vehicle to do it in.

Crighton’s bill is just one version of what is likely to be multiple proposals batted around this legislative session.

His bill would allow sports betting by adults ages 21 and up at the state’s casinos, slots parlor, horse racing tracks, and simulcast facilities, and through mobile and digital apps. The industry would be overseen by the Gaming Commission.

The biggest difference compared to a similar bill Crighton filed last session is the application fee would be increased from $1 million to $10 million. The tax rate imposed on companies would also increase, from 12.5 percent of revenues to 15 percent. There would be a renewal fee of $1.25 million due every five years. He estimated that the bill would bring in $100 million in initial application fees and more than $45 million in annual recurring revenues, though he could not offer an exact estimate. “We’d rather create a fee and tax structure that will benefit as many people as we can while keeping the operators competitive,” he said.

Crighton’s bill would allow betting on college and professional sports, but not on Massachusetts college teams. Asked how that would work in tournaments like the NCAA’s March Madness, Crighton said that level of detail would be worked out by a legislative committee.

Crighton has been pushing hard to get attention for the bill early in the session. He spoke with the legal sports betting industry news site LegalSportsBetting about it. Crighton told the State House News Service that he sees an appetite for addressing sports betting, and the News Service noted that since Crighton first filed his bill in 2019, the number of states with legal sports betting has grown from eight to 19, plus Washington, DC. 

Christian Wade, a reporter for the North of Boston Media Group, noted that in New Hampshire, more than 6,000 people signed up to play the day sports betting became legal on December 30, 2020. More than $15.8 million was wagered in the first two weeks, including bets placed by Massachusetts residents, according to the New Hampshire Lottery.

Gov. Charlie Baker supports sports betting, having introduced his own bill in 2019.

The concept has powerful support from gaming and sports organizations including the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Revolution, MGM Springfield, and the PGA Tour – not to mention lobbying by the two major mobile betting sites, Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel.

The ball is in the Legislature’s court.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Gov. Charlie Baker sees some promising signs on the COVID-19 front and decides to drop an earlier requirement that many businesses, including restaurants, close at 9:30 p.m. The number of communities at high-risk for COVID-19 finally drops a bit. More good news: Vaccinations also increase slightly.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack takes a new job as the deputy administrator at the Federal Highway Administration. Jamey Tesler, who heads the Registry of Motor Vehicles, will take her place for now. We examine what it all means.

A case coming before the Supreme Judicial Court may settle the question of whether municipalities are flexing too much power over the licensing of marijuana shops with their host community agreements.

Power has its perks, as Marty Walsh, Boston’s mayor and the nation’s soon-to-be US labor secretary, gets a COVID-19 vaccination. And why is Walsh suddenly not talking to the press?

Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, acknowledges staffing problems at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home prior to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

A new poll suggests Gateway Cities face challenges in getting residents to get back on board public transit. The poll was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group for the Barr Foundation.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A black Natick couple sues the Planning Board, alleging its members unfairly blocked a condominium proposal on their land. (MetroWest Daily News)

Boston city councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell is proposing a plan to improve conditions in the area around the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, a gathering ground for people struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. (GBH)

A lawyer for the Rockport fire chief appeals to the state secretary of the commonwealth, saying the town of Rockport is dragging its feet on fulfilling the fire chief’s public records requests. (Gloucester Daily Times)

After massive budget cuts at the Northampton police department, nearly 10 officers were either laid off or resigned. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

1,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were compromised when a contractor accidentally unplugged a freezer at the VA Medical Center in Jamaica Plain. (CBS4)

New, early evidence is raising some concerns about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines against the new variant of the virus. (New York Times

The CDC is forecasting that Massachusetts will hit 15,000 COVID-19 deaths by mid-February. (MassLive)

Homeless shelter workers receive vaccinations. (Cape Cod Times)

The financially struggling DCU Center in Worcester will start charging UMass Memorial Health Care full rent for use of the space as a field hospital. The hospital will be reimbursed by the federal government. (Telegram & Gazette)

A bill championed by the late Pete Frates, to give anyone diagnosed with ALS immediate access to their Social Security benefits, passes Congress and is now law. (The Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Biden signed a mask mandate for passengers on airplanes and proposed a bump in food assistance. (NPR)

A group of Senate Democrats files an ethics complaint against US Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz for lending legitimacy to a mob that stormed the Capitol building.

Nearly 1 in 5 defendants in Capitol riots prosecutions served in the military. (NPR)

Senate Republicans are proposing a three-week delay in starting the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump because he’s having trouble assembling a legal defense team. (Washington Post) Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman says Trump’s looming impeachment trial should be handled differently than usual such proceedings, with neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor Vice President Harris presiding over it. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Some high-needs Lawrence students return to in-person school for the first time this year. (Eagle-Tribune)

The dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health rejected a call by a group of faculty, staff, and students to move to all-remote classes because of continued high COVID-19 case counts and the arrival of the new, more contagious variant of the virus. (Boston Herald)

There were 934 COVID-19 cases reported at Massachusetts schools in the last week, including 544 students and 390 staff. (MassLive)

Some students at Boston exam schools are upset by requirements that they keep their cameras on during virtual class sessions. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority will continue being fare-free through mid-March. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

President Biden may reverse a Trump administration rule and restore protections to a 5,000-square-mile area off Cape Cod, a move that could anger the fishing industry but please environmentalists. (Boston Globe)

On paper, New York has raced ahead of Massachusetts as the East Coast leader in offshore wind energy. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A woman who worked for the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance is accused of submitting fraudulent unemployment assistance claims. (MassLive)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe launches an initiative that will allow subjects of past news coverage to ask that online versions of the story be amended or have their identifying information removed. “It was never our intent to have a short and relatively inconsequential Globe story affect the futures of the ordinary people who might be the subjects,” said editor Brian McGrory. (Boston Globe)