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Sports betting revenue in Mass. exceeds expectations, so where’s the money?

BOSTON — Sports betting in Massachusetts has been legal for a little over a year now, and so far the money it’s generating for the state is exceeding expectations.

“It’s gone really well in terms of bringing in revenue to the Commonwealth,” said State Rep Jerry Parisella. “It won’t solve all the problems here, but it does help.”

That additional revenue was a selling point to getting the bill passed—including helping local cities and towns. Boston 25 wanted to know just how much our local cities and towns are cashing in, and we found out so far they’re coming out empty-handed.

In January of last year, Massachusetts became the 30th state to legalize sports betting.

“Boston folks really love their sports,” said Rep. Parisella.

And they’re letting their money do the talking.

“We talked to a lot of experts, and they were kind of projecting their numbers based on what other states had done in the size of our state,” said Rep. Parisella. “So they anticipated maybe $60 to $70 million in revenue, but it’s gone much better than that.

In fact, it’s more than doubled their expectations. According to the Mass Gaming Commission, the Commonwealth has collected about $128 million in total taxes and assessments from sports wagering at casinos and on betting apps since it was legalized. That tax revenue gets divided into several different funds, including 27.5% of it going directly to cities and towns.

“And then they spend it how they see fit,” said Rep. Parisella. “You know, it could be for police, fire parks, things like that.”

How much did cities and towns get? When Boston 25 reached out to several cities and towns including Cambridge, Brockton, and Worcester to find out how much they’ve received from sports betting---they all told me they got the same amount---zero.

When we asked Rep. Parisella what’s taking so long for the money to reach the cities and towns, he told us, it shouldn’t.

“Every month it’s supposed to go to the comptroller and they’re supposed to distribute it,” said Rep. Parisella. “So whether or not they’re just waiting to do that big lump sum of money, that comes to the cities and towns, that could be possible, but they will get it. You know, it’s part of the law. So we want to be we wanted to make sure when we debated this legislation, we wanted to make sure that the cities and towns did get a portion of the revenue as well as the general fund.”

But finding where those sports betting dollars are right now... is not easy.

Boston 25 reached out to the state comptroller who said the revenue is deposited into the Gaming Local Aid Fund. That’s supposed to be sent to cities and towns as part of the general appropriations act each year.

The comptroller then directed Boston 25 to the Department of Revenue, since that’s who distributes those payments. The Department of Revenue told Boston 25 it does not track sports betting collections. The Executive Office of Administration and Finance followed up, saying when it comes to cities and towns, the gaming revenue is “not an increase in their allocation. It simply helps to fund their allocation.”

Bottom line, from the answers Boston 25 got back, it doesn’t appear the cities and towns are getting any bump from sports betting.

“That was the intent of the law to make sure that communities receive this money,” said Rep. Parisella. “So it’s a good chunk of money. We want to make sure, especially as the fiscal situation is a little bit less desirable than last year, that they get the money.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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