QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 9 — Do you support legalized sports gambling?

The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Q4. During the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ 8th Essex District forum, candidates agreed nearly on all the issues. How would you distinguish yourself from the others? 

Q5. 2022 has been a horrific year for gun violence. While Massachusetts has the strongest gun-control legislation in the country, what, if any, actions can be taken to further address gun violence in Massachusetts?

Q6. Marblehead has more than 14 miles of coastline, making it especially vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. How will you work with town and state leaders on sustainability and climate change issues, as well as plans to mitigate impacts in Marblehead?

Q7. With respect to the Dobbs abortion decision, some are saying the court’s rationale also imperils other matters of personal privacy, including the right of same-sex couples to marry and the right to contraception. What should the Legislature be doing now to prepare for the possibility that these rights, too, could be abrogated?

Q8. Marblehead falls far short of the state mandate of having 10 percent of its housing be classified as affordable. Everyone seems to support the concept of creating more affordable housing in the abstract. But Marblehead has made scant use of one of the state’s primary tools to increase affordable housing stock, Chapter 40B. Projects under 40B were floated at the Lead Mills and the site of what is now the Mariner, but their development (or lack thereof) went in another direction. Were these missed opportunities? What, if anything, could the legislature do to make towns like Marblehead more welcoming to 40B projects? Is this even a desirable result?

Today’s question:

It looks like now that the Legislature will approve a bill to legalize sports gambling, in some form, before you are sworn into office. What are your thoughts on how this debate has unfolded? Would you have supported the bill in its current form? Why or why not? 

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

Yes, I would have supported the bill as finally enacted. Massachusetts has been losing millions of dollars in sport betting-related revenue to neighboring states and to the illegal gaming market. This bill adequately addresses the concerns that have been raised with regard to sports betting. It addresses the problem of gambling addiction. It bans betting on the sports teams from Massachusetts colleges and universities unless a team is participating in a tournament with at least three other participants. It charges the Massachusetts Gaming Commission with writing the rules for legal sports betting, and that Commission has already developed a list of 225 regulations that will need to be drafted and promulgated in order to safely and positively implement sports betting in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts residents were betting on sports already. This way, they’ll be able to do so legally, without leaving the state. 

Diann Slavit Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

I would not have supported the final bill as written. My concerns include the impact on those prone toward gambling addiction (and their families), and the potential for the corruption of fair play and manipulation of outcomes in college sporting events in particular (something we’ve seen past examples of right here in Massachusetts).

It is my view that legalized sports betting should not include college sports – as unpaid college athletes are particularly susceptible to manipulation, bribery and point-shaving schemes that manipulate outcomes. This could have negative impacts on the integrity of college sports, sports fans and the athletes involved.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

I understand the value of the gambling industry to the state’s economy. We shouldn’t lose revenue to others, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — to the tune of $35 million annually, plus tens of millions more in licensing fees. These dollars could be funding our aging infrastructure and our schools. 

Yet, as the mother of a college athlete, I am acutely sensitive to the problems that can arise when collegiate sports become a commodity. For that reason, I am relieved that the Legislature struck a compromise that prohibits betting on in-state college teams unless they are in big tournaments. And I am relieved that the bill included important consumer protections, such as no credit card betting and no sports betting if you are under 21.

Compromise is the work of the Legislature. The process is not always smooth, but this bill is an excellent example of how balancing interests and ideas can result in something that works for the greater good. 

Compromise is also a skill, one that I honed working in Congress and on Beacon Hill. It’s one I employed during ElectBlue discussions regarding which candidates our members should support. Compromise doesn’t mean sacrificing your values; rather, it means finding common ground, respecting the needs and views of others, and focusing on the end result.

We need more — not less — at every level of government. 

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

I support the bill that was just passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. Ideally, we would have passed this bill earlier to optimize state revenue. It is important that we proceed carefully to ensure there are limits on betting and education against, and programs for, compulsive gambling.  

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

I do believe that the form of bill that passed is acceptable, and I would have supported it. I think that it is especially important that sports betting is limited to collegiate sports as college athletes are not compensated the same way that professional athletes are. I also believe that it is for the best that the use of credit cards is restricted. Given that states surrounding Massachusetts have legalized sports betting, I think that it is necessary to recognize its positive impacts, including that Massachusetts residents will be able to partake in a regulated market that will boost the economy and become a resource to the taxpayer. 

In regards to how the debate and formation of the bill took place, the timeline around the passing of the budget and therefore the delayed passing of the sports betting bill is concerning. Both the budget and bills seem to be settled at the very last minute with loose parameters, and even when there are positive outcomes from those decisions, this is still a structural concern.

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

I would have supported the bill in its current form; however, I would have liked to look more at limiting amounts an individual can wager.

While I agree with the strict licensing policies and the tax rate, I fear this may have unintentional consequences as we implement. I am confident that state regulation will make sports gambling safer, and the income generated will help the state fund other key legislation moving forward.

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