Massachusetts Lawmaker Seeks Racial Equality in Sports Betting Legalization


A lawmaker in Massachusetts says if the state wants to legalize sports betting, it should do so in a way that allows minorities to participate.

Massachusetts sports betting racism Orlando Ramos
Massachusetts sports betting racism Orlando Ramos
Massachusetts Rep. Orlando Ramos speaks about police accountability in June of 2020 while still a Springfield city councilor. Now a state lawmaker, Ramos says the legalization of sports betting must be inclusive. (Image: The Republican)

State Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-Hamden) says legislation he introduced earlier this year would guarantee racial equity in Massachusetts’ potential sports betting market. The freshman state lawmaker, who only took office in January, says new legal industries have failed to authorize a level playing field. 

Ramos claims medicinal and recreational marijuana, for instance, has favored the privileged. He argues there are “very few” people of color who have been financially capable of owning a business in the cannabis sector.

We have a racial wealth gap in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and across the country, and part of the reason is legislation,” Ramos recently opined during an interview with Focus Springfield. “Laws that have been passed that continue to haunt us to this day.”

Ramos’ sports betting legislation — House Bill 531 — would include regulations that better allows minority-owned businesses such as restaurants and bars to get in on the sports gambling game. 

Access Key

Ramos says racial equality in sports betting boils down to accessibility for minorities. That relates not only to small business owners being permitted to house sports betting kiosks inside their establishments, but also providing minorities living in more economically distressed areas access to the books.

HB531 would authorize both mobile and in-person sports betting. But Ramos argues that many people are not comfortable inputting their banking information to an online sportsbook platform. Therefore, Ramos says, sports betting kiosks in bars and restaurants would allow that demographic to participate without being required to travel to one of the state’s three commercial casinos.

“That’s the idea. Keep people where they are in their bars and restaurants, enjoy the game, and they can place their bet at a kiosk,” Ramos said. 

“We’re giving people just another option to place a bet. Of course, the bar or restaurant would benefit from that bet that is placed at their location,” he added.

Gambling is Racism Argument

Ramos contends that not allowing minorities access to sports betting would be racially unjust. But an anti-gambling advocate says gambling at its core is racist. 

During a sports betting hearing last month with the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, told lawmakers that more gambling equals more racism.

If you approve these [sports betting] bills as a committee and legislature, what you’re doing is furthering institutional racism of state-sanctioned gambling in Massachusetts,” Bernal declared.

Bernal’s opinion is based on the claim that gambling targets the poor and minorities. 

“At its core, commercial gambling, the lottery, and local casinos are a big con. It’s a form of consumer financial fraud,” the gaming critic continued. “It’s price gouging. It’s false advertising.” 

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