Fans eager for sports betting to be legalized in Massachusetts

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — As Tom Brady returns to Foxborough to take on his former team, the Sunday night match-up is expected to be the most heavily bet game thus far in the NFL season.

But in the very state where the Patriots and Buccaneers face off, betting on the game is illegal.

On Beacon Hill in July, the Massachusetts House voted to legalize sports betting in casinos and electronically. But now the bill is before the Senate, where Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said it is not high on the priority list this session.

Spilka said senators are focusing on spending the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds, the budget for the end of fiscal year 2021, election reform, mental and behavioral health equity and political redistricting.

Patriots fans Keith Holcomb and Jenn Helenek place small bets on games generally every weekend. But because the couple lives in Mass., they have to head to Rhode Island to do so.

“We live right on the border. So, I take a five-minute ride, grab a coffee, place my bets and then come back,” Holcomb said. “We’re Monkey in the Middle here in Massachusetts, because it’s legal in New Hampshire now, and it’s legal in Rhode Island. So, Mass. is losing out on revenue.”

Proponents say sports betting would bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue each year.

Connecticut is the latest New England state to legalize sports betting with the rollout beginning Thursday with betting at temporary sportsbooks at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino. That makes Vermont the only Massachusetts border state where sports betting is illegal.

Gov. Charlie Baker said in a September Tweet, “We filed a bill in 2019 and again this year to legalize sports betting in MA – it’s time to act and get this done. MA is losing out to many of our neighbors on this one.”

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