Baker's backing makes sports gambling solid bet in Mass., lawmakers say

Local lawmakers say that Gov. Charlie Baker’s support of legal sports betting all but assures it will become a reality in Massachusetts.

Bills to allow gamblers to put money down on who wins and loses sporting contests and compete with casinos in Rhode Island are now on a fast track, the lawmakers said.

Some legislators have already filed bills and Baker said earlier in the week that he would file his own measure allowing sports betting at casinos and other places.

He is calling for a 10 percent tax for on-site gambling and 12.5 percent for online betting.

Unlike the two Rhode Island casinos that have sports betting, Baker would not allow gambling on college games.

Area legislators said gambling is a trend that is sweeping the nation and sports betting is only a matter of time in Massachusetts.

“I am sure it will pass,” state Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, said after Baker announced last week that he would file his own bill on sports betting. “Anything that provides the state with revenue dedicated to local aid, $35 million by Baker’s estimate, should fly through,” Barrows said.

Despite his optimism, the lawmaker said he is unsure if he will support the legislation because he hasn’t read it yet.

The move toward legalized sports betting would be just another step in legalizing what used to be considered unsavory activities.

“We seem to be drifting away from our Puritan roots ... legalized pot, gambling, decriminalizing all sorts of once illegal activities. Can’t wait to see what is next,” Barrows said.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, whose district includes Plainville, where Plainridge Park Casino is located, agreed that Baker’s support will be decisive, but he supported sports betting before the governor announced his position. “

Definitely in favor,” the Norfolk Republican said. “Thirty-five million in new revenue for our communities without raising taxes is a huge win. And if we don’t do it then we are just giving all that money away to Rhode Island and other states as well as online ventures.”

The owners of Plainridge, Penn National Gaming, came out strongly in favor of Baker’s position.

“Governor Baker is moving an important opportunity to the Commonwealth forward,” Penn National Gaming Sr. Vice President Eric Schippers said in a prepared statement. “We are eager to review the specifics of the governor’s proposal and work with all stakeholders to establish a properly regulated sports betting framework that maximizes jobs and revenues to Massachusetts.”

State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said she does not yet know enough about legalized sports gambling to comment, but she supports allowing Plainridge to expand into table games.

Plainridge has 2,250 slot machines but no live card games like blackjack or table games such as craps

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