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A Legislative Committee Will Take Another Look At Sports Betting In Massachusetts

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

This week, a legislative committee will take another look at legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts.

A hearing Thursday will look at nearly 20 bills related to gambling on sporting events. A two-day hearing was held on the same subject in 2019, and the House approved a measure on this last year.

But in both cases, it didn't gain enough traction.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about what's ahead this week, and whether there might be more of an appetite now for sports betting.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: There certainly could be. Speaker Mariano was not the speaker at the time the House took the last vote, but he has identified sports betting as something he would like to get done.

Another thing that has changed significantly: the legislature has largely moved past the pandemic, and is beginning to think more about the routine matters that they would consider.

Senator Eric Lesser, the chair of the committee that will be holding the hearing this week, has finally put forward his own proposal for sports betting, indicating perhaps more of an appetite in the Senate this session to tackle this.

It will be interesting to listen during this hearing to see if anyone puts any sort of timetable on when something might be ready for consideration.

The governor once talked about trying to get something done before the start of the NFL football season. That did not come to pass, but the new season is a few months away. It'll be interesting to see if they set themselves a deadline.

Adam Frenier, NEPM: Monday is the last day the COVID-19 state of emergency is in effect in Massachusetts. Unless action is taken, certain temporary measures allowing for things like remote municipal meetings and to-go cocktails will lapse. The state Senate passed a bill last week extending some of these. With time ticking away, will the House and Governor Baker agree?

The House has said that they want to get something done, and to the governor, as quickly as possible. But we do know the House is not preparing to take up their version of this bill until Tuesday — which, barring any emergency action, would suggest that some of these pandemic policies, such as to-go cocktails and municipal boards being allowed to meet remotely, would expire, at least temporarily.

We'll be watching closely to see if perhaps the governor or the legislature try to take some sort of interim emergency step to allow some of these things to continue, maybe for a week or so, while this gets negotiated and sorted out. But time is of the essence. We know the House is taking this bill up Tuesday in hopes of reaching an agreement with the Senate and governor quickly.

Drama has continued inside the Massachusetts Republican Party. Its chair, Jim Lyons, last week called out most GOP House members for what he described as them turning their backs on the party's values. Lyons himself faces criticism for his handling of anti-gay remarks made by a state committee member from Ludlow. What do you make of all of this infighting?

Lyons very much feels like he's standing up to the power brokers in the party, and defending the grassroots principles of Republicanism that he has long believed in. But this party has been struggling to gain traction.

They've been losing seats in the legislature. And now we've seen a lot of the elected officials — the ones who have been successful — running as Republicans, at odds with the leader of their party.

We know that on the state committee, which tends to be a more conservative group than the elected officials in the Mass GOP, there are not the votes to remove Lyons right now. So this could continue to play out over the course of the next year and a half as we move into a critical 2022 election cycle.

The governor already has distanced himself largely from the party. It does not appear that that relationship is going to be reconciled as we move into the big statewide cycle next year.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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