EDITORIAL The Lowell Sun: Stay ahead of curve, legalize sports betting, online Lottery sales

in Lottery

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg. With far more at stake, she's been lobbying the Legislature to allow Lottery sales online -- and warning lawmakers of the consequences if they continue to resist. The tax benefits for the state's cities and towns in Governor Baker's bill pales to those supplied by the Lottery, in the form of nearly $1 billion annually in local aid. But like the governor, Goldberg wants to stay ahead of the revenue curve, and that means exposing the Lottery's offerings to a new, younger audience, which an online presence will do.

Gov. Baker's proposed legislation legalizing betting on professional sports online and at the state's three licensed casinos reflects an understanding of the seismic shift that has occurred in that industry.

Once the Supreme Court overturned federal laws prohibiting states from offering sports betting a year ago, the gold rush to cash in on that landmark decision began.

The governor's bill, which permits those three casinos to offer both onsite and online betting, and allow daily fantasy sports operators like Boston-based DraftKings to be licensed for sports wagering, aims to keep those gambling dollars -- and the millions in expected tax revenue -- within the Bay State.

The governor's decision no doubt took on some urgency after the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., -- just a short distance from the commonwealth's only slots parlor in Plainville -- in November became the first site in New England to accept bets on professional sports.

Baker told WGBH-FM last week that his proposal was modeled after a law in New Jersey -- the first U.S. state to legalize sports betting -- which reported nearly $1 billion in sports wagers within the first six months of enactment.

Several other states, including Delaware, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, also passed laws last year, while legislation is being considered in several other states.

According to administration officials, Baker's gambling bid would generate approximately $35 million in revenue in fiscal 2020, with the proceeds going toward local aid for cities and towns.

That would come by putting a 10 percent tax on sports wagering inside casinos, and a 12.5 percent tax on online bets. Daily fantasy sports contests would also be subject to the 12.5 percent tax. While we can debate the morality of creating the potential for more compulsive gamblers, gambling's legality is not in dispute. So, we can either watch other states siphon away millions in taxes, or take the pre-emptive approach behind the governor's proposal.

We don't know how this betting bill -- or any similar measure -- will be received in the Legislature. Lawmakers -- especially those in the House -- have taken a wait-and-see approach, opting for further study instead of action.

Just ask state Treasurer Deb Goldberg.

With far more at stake, she's been lobbying the Legislature to allow Lottery sales online -- and warning lawmakers of the consequences if they continue to resist.

The tax benefits for the state's cities and towns in Baker's bill pales to those supplied by the Lottery, in the form of nearly $1 billion annually in local aid.

But like the governor, Goldberg wants to stay ahead of the revenue curve, and that means exposing the Lottery's offerings to a new, younger audience, which an online presence will do.

Without it, Goldberg said the Lottery's pot -- which has plateaued -- will decline.

Both the governor's and the treasurer's initiatives deserve the Legislature's support.

Lawmakers certainly have all the information needed to immediately pass online Lottery legislation, and after due diligence, we urge them do the same with legalized sports betting.

http://www.lowellsun.com/opinion/ci_32398361/stay-ahead-curve-legalize-sports-betting-online-lottery