If the Supreme Court strikes down or alters the federal statute limiting sports wagering to just four states, you can bet the Massachusetts Legislature will take a long hard look at legalizing it because, well, money.
Moral arguments about the dangers of gambling will get sufficient air – some people will even mean it – but given the 45-year history of the Great and General Court and voters in the Bay State approving once-distasteful social behaviors, there’s little to think there will be resistance to an industry that has the potential to stuff $60 million or more into the state coffers.
The door has been wedged open – Lottery, casino gambling, marijuana – and the arguments that carried the day for legalizing those actions will once again dominate the debate over sports gambling.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission offered a “white paper” to the Legislature laying out the various scenarios for operating sports betting. The most conservative estimate, with allowing wagering only in brick-and-mortar casinos with a low tax rate on gross revenues, would bring in about $8.6 million. But the number that got lawmakers attention was the high-end estimate, which would allow not only casino sportsbooks but retail locations and online betting, could bring in $61.3 million in found money for the state.
The same arguments – eliminate the black market and keep cash in-state – that were used to create the Lottery in 1972 and more recently legalize casinos and marijuana are peppered throughout the report. The elimination of illegal gambling is the most prominent. When the Lottery began, one of the key arguments was that it would kill the illegal numbers game. And it did.
The same argument was used for legalizing adult use marijuana, though it still has to be proven. But citing a study by Oxford Economics, the Gaming Commission’s report says there is as much as $100 billion wagered illegally on sports in the United States and Massachusetts’ piece of the pie would be awfully hard to overlook.
Some argue, though, that sports betting and professional sports don’t mix. That’s beginning to ebb with both the NBA and Major League Baseball commissioners embracing legal gambling. The NFL has resisted expanding sports gambling and is a party to the suit against former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, which is the case before the Supreme Court challenging the statute that allows sports betting only in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. That decision is expected soon.
But the NFL owners have gone all-in on fantasy sports, a thinly-veiled form of gambling, so their opposition is suspect. Massachusetts is also on the verge of regulating fantasy sports, which will open yet another avenue for gambling.
The concerns, though, are not without substance, especially around here. One of the biggest scandals in college basketball history occurred at Boston College during the 1978-79 season when mob members, including Henry Hill, who was made famous in Goodfellas, admitted to paying BC players to shave points in games to cover spreads. Only one of three players accused of accepting money was indicted and convicted but the scandal resonated in anti-gambling circles for years.
If the Supreme Court strikes down or alters the law, and the federal Wire Law is changed to allow online gambling, the odds are pretty short that it likely won’t be too long before Massachusetts starts collecting vig.
A report finds that House of Representatives staff members are reluctant to report sexual harassment because of fear of retaliation and proposes new procedures to try to address that. (Boston Herald)
The state Department of Revenue has failed since the start of the year to make timely child support payments to about 1,500 Massachusetts parents. (Boston Globe)
A Brockton City Councilor who voted against a nominee for an advisory board because of his gender said the bigger issue is the dearth of women appointed to governing boards in the city by Mayor Bill Carpenter during his tenure. (The Enterprise)
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia said he does not need approval from the Zoning Board of appeals and plans to move forward with the placement of eight digital billboards around the city expected to bring in $10 million to $15 million initially and $650,000 a year after that. (Herald News)
Just one day after President Trump appeared to embrace gun control measures, he and NRA officials had an unannounced meeting in the Oval Office and tweeted out an apparent reversal in his stance. (New York Times) Scot Lehigh says Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo could be an influential, bipartisan voice of reason in the national gun control debate — but he’s not holding his breath for Baker to step up on the issue. (Boston Globe) The Berkshire Eagle assesses the impact of Attorney General Maura Healey’s crackdown on copycat assault weapons.
Gun rights advocates say one of the problems with using the “no-fly” list to bar people from buying guns is that people with foreign-sounding names are included despite not committing a crime and it disproportionately includes minorities. (National Review)
Former Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor James Levine pulled musicians into a cult-like circle that included sexual abuse, according to a lengthy Globe story.
David Capeless, the Berkshire County district attorney, announces he is stepping down on March 15 so his assistant, Paul Caccaviello, can take his place and then run for election as the acting DA in the fall. The surprise move comes on the heels of a decision by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley to retire. (Berkshire Eagle)
President Trump’s announcement that he would raise tariffs on steel and aluminum next week caught his staff off-guard and triggered a sharp dive in the stock market. (U.S. News & World Report)
Data reported to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows public schools physically restrained students more than 9,000 times in the 2016-2017 school year despite a state law that forbids restraint except in emergencies. (Associated Press) Separately, a report issued by the department indicates rural school districts are struggling financially in the face of declining enrollment. (MassLive)
The Worcester School Department is planning its own organized student walkout on March 14 to demand tougher gun laws. (Telegram & Gazette)
Natick School Superintendent Peter Sanchioni abruptly resigned Wednesday, effective immediately, citing personal, family, and medical issues. Sanchioni had been a finalist for the Acton-Boxborough superintendent position last month. (MetroWest Daily News)
The Trump administration budget includes funds for a new training ship for Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where the sister of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose agency oversees the Maritime Administration which own the ships, sits on the school’s advisory board. (Cape Cod Times)
The Department of Public Health has declared the maternity unit in Taunton’s Morton Hospital an “essential service” to the community but the agency does not have the authority to overrule Steward Health Care’s intent to close the unit. (Taunton Gazette)
On social media, the MBTA moves away from categorizing delays as severe or moderate and now says how long they will be in minutes. (Boston Globe)
Plans for a possible gondola gliding above the South Boston Waterfront call for 13 large towers and 70 cable cars. (Boston Globe)
Suffolk Construction withdraws its proposal for a helipad at its Roxbury headquarters in the face of opposition from area residents. (Boston Globe)
An MIT research paper said Uber and Lyft drivers earn a median profit of $3.37 per hour. (WBUR)
Massachusetts electric ratepayers are going to spend a lot of money on a clean energy procurement, but a lot of the tangible economic benefits of that investment will flow elsewhere. Is the state getting shortchanged? (CommonWealth)
Mark LeBel of the Acadia Center says the recently approved changes in utility rate design need to be reformed. (CommonWealth)
State gambling commission chairman Steve Crosby says the panel will consider Steve Wynn’s considerable holdings in Wynn Resorts in deliberating the fate of the company’s casino license, even though Wynn has been booted from his post as CEO. (Boston Herald) Howie Carr is still marveling at the commission’s failure to turn up the goods on Wynn via its $4.1 million investigation and concludes they never really wanted to bust him. (Boston Herald)
A state trooper who fired his rifle on Saturday during a police chase in Boston of a large group ATV riders in which a Cape Verdean man was injured has a history of making racist comments on a website called MassCops. (Boston Globe)
Federal agents arrested a Beverly man named Daniel Frisiello for sending threatening letters to Donald Trump Jr. and others. (Eagle-Tribune)
A Globe editorial criticizes a new Department of Correction policy limiting the number of people state inmates can have on their visitor list.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz is warning area police chiefs about a Duxbury man who was released on bail after being arrested and charged with possessing guns and materials to make explosives as well as impersonating a police officer. (Patriot Ledger)
A 14-year-old Tewksbury High School student was arrested after threatening to shoot a fellow student. Officials say the student did not have a weapon with him. Lowell Sun)