No clear odds on legal sports betting in Massachusetts

It’s been a year and a half since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave states the ability to allow sports betting programs and so far about a dozen states have adopted programs, but Massachusetts is not one of them.

The only New England location where a sports fan can legally place a bet is in Rhode Island, either inside the Twin River Casino in Lincoln at the Wicked Good Sports Book Bar and Grill, the Tiverton Casino Hotel in Tiverton or via a mobile app.

“Sports betting has really been a great amenity for us,” said Craig Sculos, Twin River's vice president and general manager. “We kind of refer to this room as the world’s biggest indoor tailgate party.”

Business has been good since the facility opened and Twin River was packed on Super Bowl Sunday and during March Madness, he said.

“We’ve taken the game out of the shadows. There’s nothing nefarious going on in the background.  There’s no more waiting for payments or questionable activities. It’s under a set of rules and regulations. Everything is overseen by the Rhode Island Lottery,” added Sculos.

Anyone over the age of 18 can go to Twin River and place a bet on a huge variety of sports as well as through a mobile betting app. The user must be in the state of Rhode Island for the app to work, however.

So where does the Bay State stand?

We asked sports fans outside Fenway Park if they thought Massachusetts should adopt sports betting.

One man said he thought the state should adopt it, because people are already betting through bookies. Another said he thought it was OK since the state already allows casinos. And one woman said she thought it would be a good way to raise revenue for the state that didn’t include taxes on the middle class.

State Sen. Eric Lesser, a Democrat from Longmeadow, is co-chair of the committee reviewing sports betting. “This is an entirely new industry.  We need to make sure we get it right... but I do think, eventually, this will happen so the question is when, and in what form.”

Lesser added that he believes New Jersey, which adopted a program soon after the Supreme Court ruling, could provide a good example of how to establish one here. “New Jersey also has a model that has allowed both brick-and-mortar sports betting, but also digital sports betting, companies like Fan Duel or Draft Kings. So, phone-based betting is legal in New Jersey,” he said.

Critics fear some customers will have too many options to gamble with the addition of sports betting, which could create problem gamblers.

“We need to close the black market, I think everyone is in agreement on that,” said Lesser, "but we need to make sure that we replace the black market with one that is safe, that's well-regulated, and that provides protections for people that might have an issue.”

The state could take in as much as $30 million in tax revenue through sports betting according to Lesser.

There’s no timeline on when the committee will finish its work.