Keller @ Large: After a year of sports betting in Mass., fight heats up over underage betting

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Keller @ Big: Underage sports betting a big problem in Massachusetts?

Keller @ Big: Underage sports betting a big problem in Massachusetts?


BOSTON – It’s been almost a year since sports betting was legalized in Massachusetts. But when it’s supposed to be an adults-only hobby, are a lot of underage kids doing it anyway?

Betting by people under 21 is illegal. According to testimony from sports betting providers at Monday’s state gaming commission meeting, the numbers don’t show how they do business here.

That claim left Game Commissioner Jordan Menard in the lurch. “I don’t believe it’s zero. Nobody’s going to convince me it’s zero or a single digit,” he said.

It’s right to be skeptical, according to an NCAA survey last spring that found 58 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds bet on sports. More than six in 10 have seen those ubiquitous sports betting sites, and 58 percent say it has made them more likely to bet.

“By far the biggest growth segment is the gambling industry,” said Professor Richard McGowan of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, a leading expert on the gambling industry. He says the college-age gambler is a lucrative market for them and also one of the most vulnerable.

“I know students who have gotten into trouble trying to win money for spring break and thought they were going to make it by winning sports betting,” McGowan said. “Needless to say, they didn’t.”

But while the presenters who testified before the commission seemed tight-lipped about the issue, Commissioner Brad Hill was not. When asked if Hill’s message to the industry was appropriate to describe as such, Hill replied: “The answer is yes.”

Hill said he wants to educate parents about the dangers of sports betting to their children, creating a common cultural spectacle amid the concerns of parents and regulators and the powerful lure of online betting. .

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