Legal Massachusetts sports betting sure to make some ghosts envious By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports May 29, 2019 at 7:47 pm Massachusetts has a long and colorful history of sports betting, none of it legal. Perhaps its best-known bookmakers were the infamous Angiulo brothers of Boston’s North End. Before being hounded into submission by the FBI and some honest cops and mouthy newspaper columnists, the Angiulo’s “office” on Prince Street was reputed to handle more action than some legal sports books in Las Vegas. The Angiulos had agents stationed in Las Vegas to process their layoff business. After prison, some of those characters eventually found themselves in the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s “Black Book” List of Excluded Persons. The Angiulo brothers and their friends and associates had many other businesses as well. Some did not include leg-breaking and collecting on late-paying loan shark customers. Others were even technically legal, as legal as mobbed-up corporations can be. But I’m told that’s all in the misty and nostalgic past now that Massachusetts has placed its bets on the tax revenue windfall potential of legalized casino gambling. The last of the brothers, Frank Angiulo, died back in 2015 with hundreds attending his funeral service at a Catholic Church located a short distance from the family office. Some might have suspected that the state’s decision to legalize gambling was the cause of his death, but I’m sure it was some more related to old age, infirmity, and being the last of the Mohicans on the North End. Other mobsters have taken the Angiulos’ place, but longtime residents of Hanover Street know they were in many ways irreplaceable. But now comes news that surely would have the brothers wringing their hands, or at least cursing their fate as dinosaur bookmakers whose time had come and gone. Massachusetts is seriously considering legalizing bookmaking and sports betting. After all these years, right out there in the open, not in the back of smoky bars – who smokes in bars anymore? – but in bright and shiny corporate casinos and perhaps even in stand-alone kiosks presented by publicly traded companies. Not only is it being considered, but enabling legislation is expected to receive approval, after a fashion by Massachusetts lawmakers still forced to place their Red Sox bets illegally. Although the legalized casino industry is still fledgling compared to other jurisdictions, it’s making its voice heard in the debate. Representatives of Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park recently submitted a letter outlining the industry’s desires on the matter. Signatories included Encore President Robert DeSalvio, MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis, and Plainridge Park Vice President and General Manage Lance George. It turns out they favor controlling it. “Land-based sports betting should be reserved for the commonwealth’s duly licensed casino operators and mobile sports wagering should be reserved for licensed casino operators and a limited number of daily fantasy operators with proven sports wagering experience,” they wrote. “These operators have already made tremendous investments and are large drivers of economic activity, jobs and tourism for the commonwealth.” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and leaders of the Legislature tipped their mitts months ago with a bill calling for sports betting to be restricted to existing casino licensees with mobile wagering by online gaming companies only after acquiring state licenses. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, all talk of a “debate” on the matter is little more than a trivial pursuit. Increasingly legalized in other states, state-sanctioned sports betting will be coming to Massachusetts soon. But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s for the tax revenues it might generate, which according to a report for Republican lawmakers that has an estimated range from $11 million to $45 million annually presuming a 10 percent tax. That much can easily disappear into potholes in Boston. In an article on masslive.com, Mathis offered a reality check that the Angiulo brothers themselves could have appreciated. “It’s happening currently in the commonwealth,” he said. “It’s just happening illegally with offshore black market operators. We believe we’re well positioned to bring some light to it and manage it in a responsible way for the commonwealth that brings jobs, tax revenue and integrity.” He was right, of course. But I’ll bet that down on Hanover Street you’ll still find people debating whether the dinosaur Angiulo brothers, for all their many faults, were ahead of their time. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.