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Regional News

Connecticut's Move On Sports Betting Could Push Massachusetts

Sports betting in action.
Thomas Schlosser
/
Creative Commons
Sports betting in action.

Connecticut took a step toward legalizing sports gambling this week, and it could motivate Massachusetts lawmakers to move ahead with their legislation on the issue.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont's administration on Tuesday announced it reached a deal with the Mohegan Tribe, which operates the Mohegan Sun casino. But there are several more steps that need to happen before it becomes a reality, including legislative approval.

In Massachusetts, there is a jumble of bills pending on Beacon Hill to legalize gambling on sporting events.

State Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, who chairs the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, said what's going on in Connecticut is a sign Massachusetts needs to get moving.

"I think that this is an issue that's time has come," Lesser said in an interview Wednesday. "If Massachusetts continues to sort of try to build a wall around ourselves, or create an island, it's ultimately not going to work because people will very easily drive to another state and participate."

Lesser and Governor Charlie Baker are among those who have filed bills seeking to legalize sports betting. The senator said the legislative process is in the "second or third inning." 

"They could go through the typical hearing process through the economic development committee...could potentially be included in a budget," Lesser said. "The governor included sports betting in his budget proposal, so it's very much still an open question how it all turns out."

As for the deal in Connecticut, one expert on gambling said he thinks it's a good one for the state. It gives Mohegan Sun the right to take sports bets, while also allowing the state lottery to do the same. Rev. Richard McGowan, an economics professor at Boston College, said a big key is allowing online betting.

"Where you make money on sports gambling is online, and the state certainly can control that," McGowan said. "It's the state giving something to the Native American casinos, and at the same time, withdrawing something, too."

The agreement has several sticking points. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the Foxwoods casino, has yet to sign on to the deal. Also, the company running the state's off-track betting operation told the Hartford Courant it plans to sue for being "principally excluded."

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