Massachusetts Attorney General Throws Support Behind Gaming Bill

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on April 1, 2022
Sports betting in Massachusetts has found new support.

The expansion of gambling in Massachusetts might have received the support its been missing.

During a radio interview, Attorney General Maura Healey, who is also running for governor, said she has confidence that state lawmakers would be able to pass a gaming bill that has been stuck in the Senate. 

“[Sports betting] is the way now.”

When asked if she supports the expansion of gambling, which includes Massachusetts sports betting, Healey said, “I do.”

The support that sports betting in Massachusetts needed

In 2014, Healey opposed casino gambling in the Commonwealth, even going as far as backing a ballot question that would have repealed the state’s 2011 gaming law.

At the time, Healey said, “casinos are bad for Massachusetts.”

“I was always concerend about addition, gambling addiction. I was concerened about protecting consumers.”

But Healey’s political clout comes at a much-needed time as lawmakers have been struggling to pass an MA sports betting bill.

But in addition to the attorney general, the expansion of gambling is receiving even more support. Speaking with the State House News Service, State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, also running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, said she is “open” to legalizing sports betting. 

On the Republican side, gubernatorial hopefuls Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty said they support such a measure.

Senator Eric Lesser, who intends to run for lieutenant governor, said in January he was optimistic lawmakers could pass a bill by Election Day.

“My hope is that we can get that done long before the campaign,” Lesser said. “Keep in mind the election is 10, 11 months from now.”

The bill, H3993, would legalize sports betting and daily fantasy sports. However, there is no mention of online casinos, which traditionally include online slots and online table games.

Per Section 2 the law reads:

“fantasy contests for a cash prize to members of the public may offer a fantasy contest to residents of the commonwealth pursuant to and in accordance with regulations promulgated by the attorney general; provided further, for the purposes of section 7 of chapter 4, a fantasy contest shall not be considered illegal gaming.”

What’s the hold up?

Since the fall of PASPA, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting, including four of Massachusetts’ five immediate neighbors.

  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island

Last July, a bill passed through the House and had the full support of Gov. Charlie Baker. However, the Senate has failed to grasp the concept of sports betting. Lawmakers fear the expansion of gambling could put people at risk of losing their money. 

According to research from the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Lottery already has the highest average lottery spending per capita in the nation.

The major roadblock in the Senate comes from Senate President Karen E. Spilka, who, a decade ago, opposed the casino law. Spilka has said she wants to find “consensus” on details of the bill before anything progresses. 

A State House News Service survey found that of the chamber’s 40 members, at least 60% support legalizing sports betting. 

Photo by DCStockPhotography / Shutterstock
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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