An understatement: the Legislature puzzles me sometimes

Aug. 4, 2022 | G. Michael Dobbs

Holy smokes. I write a column that once again criticizes the Legislature for not coming to terms about sports betting and lo and behold on Monday morning I learn the following from Colin Young and Michael Norton of the State House News Service:

“The sports betting bill (H 5164) will legalize wagering on professional and some collegiate contests, though betting on Massachusetts colleges and universities will not be allowed unless they are playing in a tournament like March Madness, lead Senate conferee Sen. Michael Rodrigues said.

‘“The Senate bill came out with no college at all. The House had full college and we compromised on just no in-state college,’ he said. “And that’s how you get things done, is reach compromise.’
“Mariano told reporters as the sun was rising Monday that Massachusetts bettors will ‘still be allowed to bet on just about everything else.’

‘“The fact that she was concerned about the comments by a few college presidents, we thought that maybe taking that out would speed us along and get us to a deal,’ the speaker said, referring to [Senate President Karen] Spilka sharing the concerns of the presidents of every Massachusetts college or university with Division I athletics, who were opposed to allowing betting on their contests.
“The state’s slots parlors, casinos and race tracks would be able to obtain sports betting licenses subject to a $5 million application fee and each casino would be allowed to partner with two mobile betting platforms. Another seven mobile betting platform licenses would be available as well. Wagers would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent if placed in person and 20 percent if placed via a mobile platform.”
How many years did this take? Will the governor approve of the bill?

The Happy Hour debate

The last time I encountered a Happy Hour was years ago in New York City when I received two drinks instead of the one I ordered. The server informed me that it was Happy Hour, an institution that Massachusetts rightly eliminated in 1984.

The problem with Happy Hour is it encourages people to drink more, perhaps more than they should.

Some people believe it’s time to bring it back as Colin Young of State House News Service reported, “A Senate amendment to the economic development bill would allow municipal governments to vote to allow the sale of discounted alcohol beverages at bars and restaurants during specific hours as long as certain rules are followed. Happy Hour specials are common in most other states but have been prohibited in Massachusetts since 1984. Baker suggested on July 26 that he would be hesitant to sign a bill reviving happy hour if the Legislature does not also pass road safety legislation that he has filed and promoted for years. ‘We’ve had the worst years, the past couple of years we’ve had, for auto fatalities here in the commonwealth that we’ve had in a long time. And many of those are single-car crashes, usually involving speed. We’ve proposed several pieces of safe driving and safe highway legislation that haven’t gone anywhere,’ he said. ‘In the absence of that legislation, I continue to have a lot of reservations about going back to Happy Hour.’”

I really can’t see how anyone would view the return of Happy Hour as a good thing. Could bars and restaurants benefit from it? Possibly, but how would Happy Hours affect liability insurance? Would there have to be additional training for servers and bartenders to be more aware of the sobriety of their customers?

Is the drinking public as a whole educated enough not to allow a Happy Hour to lead them to imbibing more than they should? I don’t know, but I don’t think we can afford to find out.

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