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Who Gets A Piece Of The Action If Legal Sports Betting Comes To Mass.?

DraftKings advertisements in Boston's South Station are seen in 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
DraftKings advertisements in Boston's South Station are seen in 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Casino gambling begins in Greater Boston next month, and another form of wagering could be next. State lawmakers are considering multiple bills that would legalize sports betting, including one proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Businesses, sports leagues and even the Massachusetts State Lottery are debating who should get a piece of the action.

Few companies have been as energized as Boston's DraftKings by a Supreme Court decision that allows any state to legalize sports betting.

DraftKings has offered cash prizes in fantasy sports for years, and it hopes Massachusetts will do what New Jersey did shortly after the court's ruling last year — give it a license to book wagers on real games, too.

"Sports betting is happening right now in Massachusetts," DraftKings spokesman James Chisholm said Thursday at a State House News forum. "It's happening every day. It's just happening illegally. What we want to see happen in Massachusetts is that it's legalized, it's regulated, there's a competitive, open market that fully embraces mobile."

By a full embrace of mobile, DraftKings means the state should not require sportsbook operators to be affiliated with brick-and-mortar gaming venues.

"Certainly, we disagree," said Chris Rogers, a senior vice president at Penn National Gaming, which operates the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville. "There's a strong rationale, I think, to have the licenses run through the casinos. It acts as another safeguard, from a compliance perspective."

Rogers says there's room for online companies like DraftKings to participate in a sports-betting industry — so long as they partner with a casino like Plainridge Park.

Then there's the question of whether the state lottery should run a sportsbook. Executive Director Michael Sweeney fears that if it doesn't, the lottery could lose out on revenue that funds aid to cities and towns. And, Sweeney says, small businesses that sell lottery tickets — many of which are owned by immigrants and minorities — could be hurt, too.

"If I'm a Haitian American, if I'm a Vietnamese American, if I'm a Latino entrepreneur trying to make my restaurant succeed, trying to make my bar succeed, trying to make my convenience store succeed, why am I going to be shut out of the conversation of additional foot traffic?" Sweeney said at the forum.

The state Legislature's Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies will hold two days of hearings on sports betting later this month.

This segment aired on May 16, 2019. The audio for this segment is not available.

Related:

Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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