There is no question that the legalization of sports betting has been one of the hottest topics in the sports world over the past year. From the legalization of sports betting in Pennsylvania in 2018 to the New York legalization vote from last November, the conversation surrounding sports betting has never been more important.
However, while there has been a lot of focus on the act of betting on sports, the conversation surrounding the ability to place sports bets has largely been muddled. Specifically, while it is clear that many states, including New York and Pennsylvania, intend to fully legalize sports betting, it is not clear exactly when this will happen. This is, in part, because many states have a lot of conditionalities that must be satisfied before they will implement adult-use cannabis, including allowing sports betting.
To better understand when sports betting in Massachusetts will be legal, we need to first examine how existing state law currently handles sports betting. The first and most obvious place to start is the state constitution itself. The Massachusetts state constitution specifically does not acknowledge the existence of any sort of wagering or betting, which would include both legal and illegal forms of sports betting, on any kind of athletic event or contest.
Even if the constitution did not already prohibit it, it is unlikely that the state legislature would have approved of any sort of wagering on athletic contests. Specifically, in Massachusetts, the only legal wagering activities allowed are those on horse racing and dog racing. It is also important to note that while state law does not specifically mention sports betting, it does mention ‘prize fights’ and ‘wagering pools’, which are exactly what most people think of when they think of sports betting. However, the fact that these are both referenced in the same subsection of the state constitution implies that they are, in fact, considered the same thing. To quote the state constitution, “[e]ntry into any lottery, gift enterprise or gambling scheme, or for the purpose of wagering, shall constitute a felony, punishable by imprisonment in [a] state prison for not more than five years or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or both” (art. 24).
Based on what we know so far, it seems pretty clear that the ability to engage in legal wagering activities, including sports betting, is not going to be possible in Massachusetts anytime soon. However, that does not mean that this is even a remote possibility, as there is still plenty that could change. In particular, it would help greatly if the state legislature changed the way that it handles wagering. Specifically, instead of having separate sections for horse racing and dog racing, which are what the state constitution currently addresses, it would be beneficial for the state legislature to combine these two sections into one, modernized and simplified set of laws. This would eliminate the unnecessary criminal penalties that currently come with gambling, while simultaneously allowing for a greater degree of freedom when it comes to legal wagering activities.
Where Does The Time Go?
As a general rule, when an official deadline is approaching, it is a good idea to check the status of your bills and make sure that they have passed both houses and are on their way to be signed by the Governor. This is something that you need to do well in advance in order to make sure that you are on the right track. In the case of the Massachusetts sports betting bill, this means that you need to start paying attention to this issue a few years from now, as soon as possible. Once the sports betting bill is signed by the Governor, it will become effective. At this point, you can begin to prepare for the eventuality of being able to place sports bets in the state. However, until then, it still remains illegal, as there is no specific date as to when this will happen. This is why it is important to remain patient and continue keeping up with all of the relevant news and information regarding the Massachusetts sports betting bill.
What About Unofficial Scores?
For many years, scores from college and professional sports were not considered verifiable facts and, as such, were not officially recognized in most places. However, this changed in 2018 when a number of states, including New York, passed legislation that expressly allows for ‘fan verified’ scores to be considered verifiable facts. Based on this legislation, if a company provides a platform for fans to verify their scores, then these can be considered as valid as the score that is broadcast by the mainstream media. In the case of New York, this was put in place as a safety measure to combat fraud and misinformation. After all, no one knows, with complete certainty, whether the score that they are seeing on their television is actually valid or not.
For now, this is only the case for professional and collegiate sports in New York. However, it is certainly likely that this will spread to other areas of the country, as well. Specifically, with the growing acceptance of legal and regulated online gambling, teams and leagues will have an incentive to adopt this system for their own games, as it will ensure that there is an easily available source of verified information regarding team and league results.
Will Other States Follow Suit?
As we have seen with the legalization of recreational cannabis in some parts of the country, others are quick to follow suit and subsequently implement similar legislation. In particular, last year, a number of states, including Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, and West Virginia, considered and ultimately passed legislation that would have legalised sports betting. However, as we have already established, this is not yet the case in Massachusetts, which still has no specific date as to when legal sports betting will become a reality. This means that at this point, all of these other states still have to operate under the current anti-gambling laws and cannot offer their services to Massachusetts residents, or any other state residents for that matter.
Nonetheless, with any luck, soon enough this will no longer be the case and, as more and more people become accustomed to seeing scores verified by fans and not by elitists in a stadium, the stigma that surrounds sports gambling will diminish.
To give you an idea of how quickly things can change, last year was the first time, since the start of organized sports, that a World Series game went beyond the allotted three hours. Specifically, due to severe weather conditions in Pittsburgh and delays caused by the wind and heavy rain, the first game of the World Series, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves, ended up going past the 10:00 p.m. deadline in favour of the Dodgers. This is why it is important to remain patient and continue keeping up with all of the relevant news and information regarding the Massachusetts sports betting bill.