• The West Springfield Town Council passed a sports betting resolution this week.
  • The resolution asks the MA legislature to allow small business owners to receive sports betting licenses.
  • MA sports betting is likely to be the exclusive domain of licensed casino operators.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Sports betting, in one form or another, will eventually come to Massachusetts. The pastime could even be legalized this year, as the state’s legislative session effectively lasts through December.

To date, most of the legislature’s 19 different sports betting proposals have been structured around limiting the activity to area casinos and online portals. However, small businesses in the state have lately been angling for a cut of the action.

This week, the town of West Springfield addressed the issue.

With Mayor William C. Reichelt (I) on board, the West Springfield Town Council passed a sports betting resolution of its own. In it, the town has asked the larger state government to allow small businesses already licensed for keno and lottery operations to offer sports wagering.

As of the 2010 census, West Springfield had just over 28,000 residents. Small towns like these throughout the state are eager to get a place at the sports betting table.

Speaking of the benefit legal Massachusetts sports betting could provide to small businesses in his district and elsewhere, Reichelt makes a simple argument:

“Whether it be through Vegas and all the apps, FanDuel and everything else, [sports betting is] definitely a revenue source and I think absolutely they could benefit. Make sure they take into account the small business owners across the state.”

That said, there is no indication that the state is considering such localized rollouts. Further, the legalization tack in Massachusetts has so far neglected to put sports wagering under the purview of the state lottery.

In states where convenience store betting kiosks and small-scale retail venues have been folded into sports betting legislation, the common thread is lottery oversight of the industry. Lotteries typically have the infrastructure to efficiently manage that specific sort of expansion.

In Massachusetts, as in most states, the legislative approach instead aligns sports betting with traditional gambling outlets. The Bay State has recent pressing casino investments to consider, and these will likely be prioritized by any sports wagering bills that actually gain traction.

The MGM Springfield opened in 2018 and could use the stimulus that legal sports betting would provide. The same is true for the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor, which is slated to open sometime later this year.

A third major Massachusetts casino is in the preliminary planning stages, as well. On the tribal side of the equation, the Mashpee Wampanoag casino project is also pending.

Funneling as much business as possible to these venues and their host communities is a strong motivator for lawmakers.

In neighboring New York, legislators have been trying to get expanded sports wagering passed into law. But because of the predicted economic stimulus the activity will bring to New York’s four newly constructed upstate casinos, such proposals have not been seriously considered.

Massachusetts is in the same boat. As the state tries to build out its own casino-based gambling industry, sports wagering will likely be the exclusive domain of its licensed casino operators.

News tags: | | | | | | | |