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Massachusetts to hold back in race to offer sports betting

It appears that Massachusetts will not be among the front-running states offering sports betting following the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

On Thursday House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he intended to take his time making a decision on whether to embrace sports gambling and would be taking a more cautious approach than states like Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which have already enacted legislation to either legalise sports betting or permit the development of regulations for sports betting.

With just two months left in the current legislative season, DeLeo said it would be “difficult” to see the House taking up a bill this session, and it is in any case not a decision he wants to rush into.

“I think that there are so many questions that have to be answered and I think that right now (it is not reasonable) for us to be able to expect to do this within the last two months of session, I’m not saying we’re not going to talk about it, we’re going continue to try to come to some type of an answer yes or no, but what I’m saying is I think it would be very, very difficult,” DeLeo told local media reporters Thursday.

DeoLeo said that he and Rep. Joseph Wagner, House co-chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, have had initial discussions about sports betting, and were in agreement that they should take their time.

The Speaker said he had listened to a range of opinions on the issue from constituents and is only beginning to understand all the facets of sports betting that would have to be considered if it were to be legalised in Massachusetts, including whether to allow online betting and how to approach minors.

“The more we talk about it, the more questions that we get and with that, I think that if we’re going to do it, I think we have to do it as best we can and try to get it right the first time and if that takes a little bit longer for us to get to that point, to do it correctly, then I think that’s the way we ought to do it,” DeLeo said.

While the Speaker noted that Massachusetts doesn’t want to fall too far behind other states that might begin to capture a new revenue source from legal sports gambling, he also said he doesn’t regret not having started the review process sooner in anticipation of the court ruling.

“With the many issues that we’re dealing with right now, for us to be dealing with a hypothetical and not knowing what’s going to happen, we need to probably get some further answers from the federal government as well. Are they going to step in? Are they going to mandate something on the states? So, not at all,” he said.

Rep. Wagner drew attention to comments from the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell that the League may prefer to see the federal government give US states some guidance on how to regulate sports betting.

“While we might elevate it in terms of where it may be in the queue, the Speaker’s correct,” he said. “It’s going to take a period of time to do a deep dive.”

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has estimated that sports betting could generate between $9 million and $61 million in state tax revenue a year, depending on the tax rate.

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