Massachusetts Lawmakers Avoid Gambling Expansion in Stimulus Bill

Massachusetts State House, Boston

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have decided to avoid adding a third casino and sports betting to its new stimulus bill.

One way in which states in the US have been able to bring in new revenues is through the addition of gambling services. Some states have expanded on what they already have, while others have just now started to offer gambling options like casinos, online services, the lottery, etc. In Massachusetts, it was expected that a new economic stimulus bill would include expanded gambling to bring in more money to the state. However, it did not. Sports betting as well as a third resort casino were not included.

Stimulus Details

The stimulus package for Massachusetts has a price tag of just over $626 million. It is being called an act to encourage new development in the state and help to recover the economy. It will provide funds for small business grants, paycheck protection, relief to restaurants and low-income housing.

Many lawmakers in the state pushed for gambling options to be included in the measure. Sports betting was a big deal for many lawmakers, including Governor Charlie Baker. However, the 101 page bill did not include this option. House Speaker Ron Mariano pointed out the lack of sports betting text and how it was a shame.

According to the Speaker, if they could, sports betting would be in the works. Mariano plans to come back to it in the future. He blames the state Senate for the action. The House version of the bill had sports betting in it but the Senate removed the text. For now, the option will have to be tabled until the spring.

New Casino Option Also Tabled

Go way back to 2011 and you have the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act. With this legislation, the state was allowed to have as many as three Category 1 destination resort casinos created. The casinos could be located in three regions and offer both slots and table games.

Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield hold two of the licenses. There is still one final license left to give out. The facility can be located in the Region C of the state. The Gaming Commission has not provided a license due to an effort by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Taunton. The tribe wants to build a $1 billion resort but they have been stopped at every turn due to legal reasons.

Back in 2015, the tribe had acquired 151 acres of land. The land was accepted by the US Department of the Interior as a federal trust. However, the decision was reversed by the Trump administration which has led to a delay in the creation of the resort.

The decision could be reversed again once the Biden is named the new President of the United States. He had a new Interior Secretary coming in that might decide to revert back to the original ruling. The tribe is hoping that this will be the outcome.

At one time, there was a version of the stimulus package that called for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to consider opening the licensing process back up so that a casino could be added to the state and help bring in revenues. This was in the House measure so of course, the Senate removed it.

While there has not been a formal request for the Commission to review the licensing option, apparently the group does have plans to do that this year. The ongoing legal proceedings of the tribe will determine how the process goes. Perhaps a decision change will happen early this year once the new Biden administration begins and the Mashpee will be able to get started on the project as soon as they possibly can.

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