BOSTON — Legal MA sports betting could be coming to a sportsbook near Fenway Park if professional leagues and teams get their way.
That is according to Dave Friedman, Executive VP of Legal and Government Affairs for the Boston Red Sox. Friedman spoke on a Sunday morning panel at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS):
“We’re focused with the leagues and the other pro teams on a different concept which is what some states like Illinois, Arizona, Washington DC, Virginia and Ohio have done, which is to say when you have licenses for sports betting, give the pro teams or venues a licensing opportunity whether you’re the license holder or whether with a partnership with an operator.”
Friedman added he would like to see teams licensed for both retail and mobile MA sports betting. That surely is not an easy lift, especially with the end of the formal legislative session on July 31.
MA sports betting near Fenway, if allowed
West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty moderated Sunday’s panel. He quickly hit Friedman with the follow-up of whether the Red Sox are interested in a sportsbook:
“It depends on what the legislature lets us do,” Friedman said. “If that’s an opportunity, then I think we’d be excited to set up a sportsbook. There are a couple of properties next to the ballpark that we’d look at.”
Fluharty joked in response, “I think that was a yes.”
It is not Fenway’s old bones that prevent a sportsbook at the stadium. Major League Baseball does not allow sportsbooks in the ticketed area of its stadiums.
Is whistle-to-whistle ad ban constitutional?
The chambers of the Massachusetts legislature passed widely divergent bills on sports betting. The biggest issue delaying the conference committee from coming to an agreement is the Senate’s proposed betting ban on college sports, Friedman said, though that has little impact on the Red Sox.
Chairman Jerry Parisella said college betting and the tax rate are the two biggest hurdles in his NCLGS opening address Friday. Friedman is more concerned about the portion of the Senate’s bill that would ban all betting ads during sporting events.
“The Senate passed a bill in May that has what’s called a whistle-to-whistle ban, banning all ads during games which is unprecedented, doesn’t make any sense to us especially with the leagues already heavily regulating ads, and I think it’s actually unconstitutional,” Friedman said.
Industry has to take charge of advertising
Brandt Iden, Sportradar head of US government affairs and former Michigan legislator, agreed a ban is unconstitutional and needs to be avoided “at all costs.” He also does not think this is the last time it will be brought up in states looking to legalize.
“I do think that this conversation will continue to permeate around the country in these states that haven’t passed sports betting into laws, until such time as the industry steps up and does something to sort of curtail the advertising piece.
“This is a conversation that I think dates back to two or three of these conferences ago when we all got together and talked about [how] the industry needs to be the leader in this space so the regulators and the politicians don’t do it for us.”
Woods: banning MA sports betting ads helps offshore
Luisa Woods, VP of marketing for Delaware North‘s gaming arm, said advertising is about creating customer relationships.
She also warned that ad bans could do more harm than good to the industry and consumers:
“Guidelines around how to engage with the fans to me seem much more constructive than this idea of pretending it doesn’t exist. Pretending it doesn’t exist is what leads to offshore industries proliferating.”