BOSTON (SHNS) – Over the next few weeks, regulators at the Mass. Gaming Commission expect to be briefed on the proposals filed on Beacon Hill related to sports betting and could get an update on a commission effort to refile a bill that would change the way horse racing is managed.
The sports betting bills that Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Brendan Crighton filed last month, and many others that have been filed since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to legalize the activity, would put the Gaming Commission in charge of licensing and overseeing sports betting operators in Massachusetts.
The commission has not participated in the drafting of any sports betting bills but has been studying the issue for years in anticipation of it being made legal here. During an agenda-setting meeting Wednesday, commission staffers said they could provide a rundown of the various sports betting proposals that will be before the Legislature this session and what new responsibilities they would put in the commission’s lap at one of the panel’s next two meetings.
In 2018, the commission prepared a white paper on sports betting to highlight key considerations for lawmakers and to map out how the Legislature might think about introducing another new form of gambling in the Bay State.
The commission could also get a report in the coming weeks, general counsel Todd Grossman said Wednesday, on the effort that’s been underway by a small group at the Gaming Commission to “draft legislation to create a new Chapter 128D to overhaul the racing” aspect of the commission’s responsibilities.
Over the years, lawmakers have extended the racing and simulcasting laws for a year at a time, often waiting until just before or after the deadline to pass extensions. In 2018 and 2019, lawmakers missed the deadline, and racing and simulcasting were briefly illegal in Massachusetts. For about five years, the commission has been asking lawmakers to give serious consideration to giving it broader powers to regulate the racing industry and put an end to one-year extensions of racing and simulcasting authority.
The commission’s legislation did not gain traction with lawmakers in previous sessions. Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended most plans on Beacon Hill, Sen. Paul Feeney told the News Service that he and Rep. Tackey Chan were working on “a comprehensive bill that addresses all of these issues” and that would allow the Legislature to “stop this dance” of extending licenses every few months. Under the most recent extension, horse racing and simulcast wagering are legal in Massachusetts until the end of July 2021.