After more than a year of back and forth, Massachusetts lawmakers have finalized a deal to legalize sports betting in the state. Should the law go into effect, it seems Boston.com readers will be first in line to place their bets.
Before the state legislature announced the agreement, we asked readers if they thought Massachusetts would benefit from legalized sports betting, and a majority of the 501 readers who responded to the poll said yes. Currently, sports betting is illegal in Massachusetts, but that hasn’t stopped readers from crossing state lines to make their bets.
In another poll, 87% of the 1,245 respondents said they leave Massachusetts to place bets and would continue to do so if legalization doesn’t go into effect. To most readers, it only makes sense that Massachusetts should benefit from residents’ interest in betting.
“As someone who bets frequently on all leagues (NFL, NBA, NCAAF, etc.) but through a bookie or in Rhode Island, it just makes sense to have everything done in the open,” Sam P. from South Boston told Boston.com. “I currently don’t have to pay taxes on winning but also don’t get the same access to bets that I would with legalized books.”
The agreement reached by the House and Senate allows for professional and college betting, excluding in-state schools. In-state college betting will be allowed if it’s part of an NCAA tournament. Whether or not to allow betting on college sports was a point of contention as lawmakers tried to reach a compromise. Ultimately, most readers agree with the decision to make college sports betting legal, with some exceptions.
“College sports, in particular March Madness and college bowl games, are too big to pass up from a revenue standpoint. I wouldn’t mind seeing them make a concession like in Connecticut where college teams in that state cannot be gambled on,” said Javier from Haverhill.
Now that lawmakers have reached a compromise, the bill needs to be signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker. He’s likely to do so without pushback, but it still may be a while until bets can be placed legally in Massachusetts as the state sorts out regulations, betting licenses, and other details.
Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing why they think this proposed law will be a benefit, or detriment, to the state.
Some responses may be edited for length and clarity.
Should Massachusetts legalize sports betting?
Yes, legalize sports betting
“It’s lost revenue for the state. Gamblers will go out of state to bet on college games. Follow the format of Rhode Island. No betting on in-state college sports. It’s a no-brainer!” — Michael C., Weymouth
“Massachusetts residents are forced to cross state lines or use offshore-based gambling websites to place a bet. A passage of sports gambling will make it easier, safer, and more reliable to place wagers. It should include college sports as that is more profitable than professional.” — Rob, Natick
“It’s my money to entertain myself any way I want and none of the government’s business.” — A Woods, Townsend
“The people of Massachusetts should be able to place bets on whatever sports they want. It’s their money, the land of the free. This would also take away illegal gambling in Mass., which, as we all know, would bring in tax revenue. It’s embarrassing to Massachusetts that residents have to go to different states to place a bet. These states are laughing at lawmakers while they make all the money. This bill is way overdue.” — Wayne M., Haverhill
“It hurts nobody by being legal. Tax it and let adults bet on sports like they already do in nearby states.” — Mike, Melrose
“Similar to the debate about marijuana 10 years ago, people are going to get their fix one way or another. They are either going to cross state lines and bet legally, bet online through an offshore gambling site or bet through an underground bookie. The cat is already out of the bag in terms of sports betting in this country. It’s time for Massachusetts to reap the tax benefits.” — Dan, Franklin
Yes, but no betting on college sports
“Concerns center on college sports and player risks to integrity. College student betting, especially with operator enticements to start gambling, risks harm to gamblers and others. Opening a Pandora’s Box for very limited revenue without clarifying what the money will be used for.” — Steven Z.
“Betting on college sports should NEVER be allowed. If sports betting is approved, it should be restricted to professional sports only.” — Wayne, Tewksbury
“In the name of compromise, to get sports betting legalized in Massachusetts, we can deal with the question of college sports betting down the road.” — George C., Mashpee
“Sports betting is part of American sports life. So legalizing it — as many states have done — is sensible. As for college sports betting, which is a sticking point for this legislation, I agree that betting on national college sports should be permitted. But excluding local colleges should alleviate the fears of many athletic directors.” — Neil R., South Boston
No, don’t legalize sports betting
“The temptation to cheat is overwhelmingly present. There is no reason why athletes should be second-guessed for an athletic mistake that results in bettors losing money. Similarly, coaches should not be second-guessed for lineups/pitcher changes or play calling. The odds of winning money are poor for the ordinary bettor but good for the gambling companies. It’s a very bad mistake to legalize and advertise gambling that will cost those who can afford it the least … the most.” — Edward P., Wayland
“Gambling, in general, tends to harm the poorest people in our society as they get sucked into it and lose large amounts of money. Letting people use a credit card for it is an awful idea as it will facilitate racking up a lot of high-interest debt.” — David, Ayer
“Just like the state lottery, it amounts to a regressive tax on those who can least afford it. A much better and fairer way for the state to raise revenue would be to enact a graduated income tax.” — Keith M., Boston
“Betting on sports, particularly college sports, should not be sponsored by the state in its attempts to develop sources of revenue. The Black Sox scandal of 1919 should have told people all they needed to know about the dangers of sports betting. Why are we insisting on making gambling an OK activity? A great many people simply cannot handle the temptations involved. Legalizing it does not make society better … it makes society worse off.” — Eric Perkins
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.