State’s Potential Take From Sports Betting Looks Small — and The Week That Was on Beacon Hill

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By Craig Sandler

In the wake of Monday’s court decision on sports betting, the only thing we can say for sure, ironically, is that all bets are off. For now.

Will Massachusetts join the roster of states that will legalize betting on sports after a federal Supreme Court ruling that it’s O.K. to do so? What form will that industry take here? Will the state Lottery get a piece of the action, and how will it interact with private betting operations? What about fantasy-league wagering?

All scintillating topics of rumination for students of public policy, and yet the most important one may be:  why is the ultimate payoff for state government estimated to be so meager?

Though the story is huge — America’s relationship with perhaps its most important cultural activity is about to shift significantly — the payout to the Massachusetts Treasury estimated by the state Gaming Commission seems oddly small:  $9 million to $61 million a year, roughly enough to fund 10 hours of state government operations.

Similarly, for a story so big, the actual news it generated this week was kinda small.

“We’re really going to have to look at this,” said the governor, speaker, and Senate president, while the treasurer expressed a desire to be included. More precisely (well, not really), “I think we have to look at it, we have to look at it carefully,” Senate President Harriette Chandler told reporters.

Which left another question unanswered:  with so many months, years, really, to get ready for such a decision, and states like Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey ready to implement, why were Massachusetts leaders so unprepared?

“I think there’s a couple of questions I think that really have to be decided beforehand. I think right off the bat you have the question of integrity,” declared House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “Secondly, also, is the issue of revenue. What’s going to happen in terms of the states around us, the other states in the country and whatnot.”

That “whatnot” could explain part of the lack of clarity. With so many people so invested in the sporting life, especially around here, the reliably risk-averse trio that leads Beacon Hill could have been expected to — dare we say it? — hedge their bets, to avoid angering their followers.

The sports-betting issue is about the future, but another headline-maker this week was about the past — the recent, regrettable past in the case of the now-defunct Mount Ida College in Newton.

Attorney General Maura Healey validated the $85 million deal between Mount Ida and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, under which Mount Ida announced its immediate closing without prior warning to students, parents, or most staff. On Tuesday, Healey said the difficulties caused by the sale and closure are less than the chaos and woe that would result from blocking it at this late date.

But Healey did also join the universal condemnation of the closure, calling it “disorderly and harmful,” and said she would commence an investigation into whether the administration and trustees of Mount Ida criminally abrogated their fiduciary duty.

Healey’s criticism was mild compared to what Mount Ida trustees chairman Carmin Reiss faced at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, while UMass President Martin Meehan and UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy continued to endure their share of criticism, within the walls of Gardner Auditorium and beyond.

But Meehan told the committee that while the Mount Ida situation is not pleasant and communications about the closure could have been handled better, it’s a harbinger. “There are going to be other closures, and there ought to be some kind of standards set up for when private universities close,” as the number of prospective students continues to fall, Meehan said. “This is going to happen over and over and over again. It’s around the corner.”

The UMass leaders weathered sharp disagreement with their contention that the flagship campus needs an outpost of sorts near Boston, because its distance from the capital city makes it difficult for students to take advantage of internships and other career opportunities.

The sale officially closed on Thursday, UMass confirmed.

Back to the sin business for a moment if we may — gambling wasn’t the only vice headed for new status as a novel node of economic development this week. The Cannabis Control Commission reported 70 applications to do one form of business or another in the recreational marijuana industry, which opens for business formally July 1.

The cannabis commission reported it has cleared 166 license applications for priority review, and rejected three for that status, as it prepares to begin licensing retail pot shops June 1. Chairman Steven Hoffman detailed some gaps — and business opportunities — he sees developing in the burgeoning industry. “We’d like to see more applications for labs and transportation … we’re looking; there are some holes in terms of what this industry has to look like to work effectively,” Hoffman told Colin Young of State House News Service.

As temperatures warmed, so did campaign season — and tempers may have gotten hot in Lowell.

Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez jointly appeared on “Radio Boston,” contrasting styles more than policy approaches. The two Democratic gubernatorial candidates stressed their common wealth of experience more than their differences — and their common view that Charlie Baker has been far too passive in his approach to opioids, housing, and the controversial policymaking of the Trump administration.

Gonzalez’s policy-pointmaking played off against Massie’s visionary and occasionally quirky view of the world and state — a contrast to the unpleasantness detailed in a court action brought against Democratic Lowell state Representative Rady Mom. Mom’s former friend and campaign adviser, and current challenger, Sam Meas, alleged in Woburn District Court that Mom choked and swore at him during a graduation party in Lowell on Tuesday, May 8. Mom says nothing happened; Meas’s motion for a harassment-protection order was denied on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

A sampling of other headlines from a few other stories of note from the week:

— The administration said the recently-passed criminal justice law could result in “significant” new problems and costs in the corrections system because its definition of who’s ineligible for solitary confinement is too expensive. The governor’s legal counsel said the issue is a major argument for passage of a package of modifications to the landmark legislation the governor filed at the same time he signed the main bill.

— With an international biotech convention coming to Boston in early June, the House passed a $468 million round of funding for the state’s life-sciences program that began under Governor Deval Patrick in 2008. Full passage this month could give the governor the opportunity to sign the measure in conjunction with the conference; election-conscious legislative leaders may not be that eager to facilitate that particular magic moment.

— Workplace deaths for 2016 were at the highest level since 2000 in the metro Boston area, and opioids are a leading culprit. The U.S. Labor Department reported 75 deaths at work in metro Boston during the latest year for which numbers are known — including a spike in “unintentional” drug and alcohol overdoses.

STORY OF THE WEEK:  With 123 pro sports teams, and thousands of NCAA squads to bet on, all Massachusetts needs to do now is decide whether to …

SONG OF THE WEEK: … Play the game.