Massachusetts lawmakers will consider nearly 20 bills related to sports wagering during a virtual hearing Thursday.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies will hold the virtual hearing at 10 a.m., to hear testimony including from Boston College men’s ice hockey coach Jerry York. The winningest active college hockey coach will testify on behalf of BC and its position in strong opposition to wagering on collegiate athletics.
Sports betting supporters have lamented that Massachusetts has not yet legalized betting, but others say not enough attention has been paid to the social costs of a further expansion of gambling.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the nearly-nationwide prohibition on sports wagering was unconstitutional and gave states the ability to legalize the activity. Massachusetts lawmakers at first indicated a desire to move quickly, but the issue has not gained significant traction in either of the last two sessions.
At least 26 other states, including neighboring Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and New York, have already authorized gamblers to place legal bets on sports.
Most Massachusetts voters have already made up their minds about legalizing sports betting and 61 percent of the state strongly or somewhat supports the idea, a poll commissioned by Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor found.
The slots parlor and casino, both of which have said they would like to get into the sports wagering world if Massachusetts makes it legal, said the poll of 500 registered Massachusetts voters revealed 32 percent of respondents strongly support sports betting and another 29 percent somewhat support it.
Ten percent of respondents said they somewhat oppose sports betting legalization and 14 percent said they strongly oppose it. Undecided respondents made up 15 percent of responses.
Gov. Charlie Baker, whose latest sports betting bill (H 70) is on the docket, has repeatedly written about $35 million in sports betting revenue into his budget plans.
Last session, the Economic Development Committee heard two days of testimony on legal betting in May 2019 but the idea never gained significant traction. The House legalized betting as part of an economic development bill, but the Senate never truly engaged on the topic and Senate leaders suggested the branch simply isn’t that interested in it.