The Massachusetts Lottery wants to go online. And after the state motioned to authorize mobile sports gambling, at least one powerful state official in Boston says it’s time to modernize the state-run lottery.
A special joint legislative committee last week reached a deal to send a sports betting compromise to Gov. Charlie Baker’s (D) desk. The conference team settled differences between the sports betting bills that the Senate and House each passed separately.
The resolved measure seeks to legalize sports betting in the commonwealth in-person at the state’s three commercial casinos and two horse racetracks. The compromise, pending Baker’s signature, would also allow for online sportsbook operators like DraftKings to partner with qualifying land-based venues to facilitate wagers over the internet.
Should Baker sign the sports betting resolution, as he’s expected to do, Massachusetts would join neighboring New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire in allowing gambling on most professional and collegiate sports. But Deborah Goldberg, state treasurer of the commonwealth, says the expanded gambling will further threaten the lottery.
The Massachusetts Lottery is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. The lottery is the state’s oldest form of permitted gambling.
The lottery’s first ticket was sold on March 22, 1972, and has since generated over $140 billion in sales and a more than $30 billion net profit.
Massachusetts uses its lottery tax income to provide local aid to all 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth. The lottery delivered more than $1.11 billion in assistance during the state’s 2021 fiscal year.
Goldberg, however, says the state’s ongoing expansion of gambling must not threaten the lottery.
Massachusetts legalized commercial Las Vegas-style casinos in 2011. Today, the state has two full-scale casinos with slots and table games — Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield. Plainridge Park is a slots-only casino.
Goldberg says if Massachusetts wants to allow sports betting to operate online, so should the lottery.
“I am pleased that the legislature explored new ways to generate sustainable revenue for the state this session. With sports betting set to go online, I hope to work with the legislature to hold the lottery harmless,” Goldberg said last week.
“Should members come back this fall to finalize the Economic Development Bill, I encourage them to allow the lottery to offer products online. We are prepared to implement a safe and reliable iLottery with the ability to produce significant, additional dollars for the state,” Goldberg explained.
Sports betting is not expected to deliver nearly the tax benefit to the state that the lottery does. State fiscal estimates project about $65 million annually from the expanded gaming.
But Goldberg believes sports betting — a small-margin vertical for the gaming industry — could poach some gross revenue from the lottery.
If sports betting is available online, then the lottery must be available online,” she opined.
Massachusetts lawmakers have been considerate of the lottery during previous legislative expansions of gaming. The state in its 2011 casino authorization required that each licensed casino become a designated Massachusetts Lottery retailer that sells tickets.
At Plainridge Park, for instance, the casino’s gift shop on the gaming floor is an authorized Massachusetts Lottery retailer.
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