SPRINGFIELD – Travelers to Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville are already passing billboards promoting sports betting across the state line in Rhode Island, and Connecticut passed sports betting laws three weeks ago.
More competition is coming not only to casinos like Plainridge and MGM Springfield, but bars and restaurants as well, Senator John Velis, D-Westfield, told the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Thursday.
The committee, chaired on the Senate side by Senator Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, is reviewing 19 sports betting laws and held hour-long hearings on Thursday.
All bills would legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, a move expected to bring the state $ 50 to 70 million in annual revenue. A vote on a final bill is to take place this year.
When lawmakers debated the idea of sports betting a year ago, there were nine states that had allowed it. Today there are more than 31.
Connecticut’s sports betting legislation provides for 15 retail locations across Nutmeg State, as well as major centers in Hartford and Bridgeport. There could be a legal sportsbook near Bobby V’s sports bar near Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Velis said.
“Simply put, we’re losing revenue to Connecticut,” he said. “And our local businesses will lose revenue to Connecticut.”
A poll published this week by Plainridge Park and Encore Boston Harbor found that 61% of Massachusetts residents support legal sports betting.
Lesser’s own account would not allow betting on college and youth sports. Lesser has also proposed a $ 1 million registration fee for existing casinos and racetracks and a $ 2 million fee for non-stationary venues.
Only a bill by MPs Orlando Ramos and Senator Adam Gomez, both Springfield Democrats, and Velis would include local bars, restaurants and small retailers as places where sports betting can be legally conducted.
“It also means that our bill is the only one that has a racial equality component,” said Ramos. “We are preparing to welcome another multibillion dollar industry. Let’s make sure it has racial equality. “
There are no minority minority casinos in Massachusetts, he said. “There are very few cannabis companies owned by blacks and browns. We missed the boat on these two and want to make sure we get this right, ”said Ramos.
The bill includes an opt-out clause for cities and towns that will allow them to choose whether or not to allow bets at retailers within their limits.
West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt said he was with business owners and mayors John Vieau of Chicopee and William Sapelli of Agawam in support of Gomez-Ramos’ proposal.
“That made sense before COVID,” said Reichelt. “But now with the local institutions in my community, and I’m sure yours, who are holding onto by a thread, it makes even more sense.”
In all of the proposals, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the same body that regulates casinos, would regulate sports betting.
Some bills go further in addressing problem gambling. MP Lindsay N. Sabadosa, D-Northampton, has a bill that requires studies on sports betting and problem gambling, as well as the role of sports betting in attracting young people to gamble.
And all the travelers who see the Rhode Island billboards?
“They’re driving right through to get to Rhode Island,” said Jennifer Thompson, Plainville city administrator. “And the people who own businesses here are watching.”