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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 24: A view of an unusually quiet Massachusetts State House on March 24, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A “stay at home” order was put into effect by Governor Charlie Baker in an attempt to slow the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It has been a highly contentious and debated topic for years in the Commonwealth, however, on Thursday the House approved a bill to legalize sports gambling in Massachusetts. The proposal passed with ease 156-3 and received support from both sides of the isle.

“We think it’s a big boost and a big boom for the Commonwealth,” Representative Jerry Parisella said.

Thursday’s vote was a long time coming as sports betting legislation has been on the docket for a couple years, but was pushed down the line due to a plethora of reasons, mainly the current pandemic.

Massachusetts is one of the few states that does not have legalized sports gambling. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting sports wagering was unconstitutional in 2018, 30 states have allowed it. Those states include neighboring Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York.

“Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports,” Representative Parisella said. “They’re either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it’s legal, or they’re also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet or they’re also going to a bookie. But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts.”

The legalization of sports gambling in Massachusetts would bring in millions of dollars for the state through taxes and allow bettors to place wagers with more ease. It is a win, win.

Thursday’s vote is not the end of the process. The bill now must be approved by the Massachusetts Senate, which has turned down multiple attempts in the past. Senator Eric Lesser has said he believes if the bill passes the Senate, it won’t be enacted until the end of 2021.

One of the points of big debate was if the state would include betting on collegiate sports in the bill. Some lobbyists and officials are against the idea, saying it will impact the more easily-influenced student-athletes. But House Speaker Ronald Mariano said leaving collegiate betting out of the bill would be a deal breaker.

“I find myself having a tough time trying to justify going through all of this to not include probably the main driver of betting in the commonwealth,” Mariano said.

The bill passed on Thursday included collegiate betting.

Now, the bill will go to the state Senate and then Governor Charlie Baker.

Earlier this week, Massachusetts state representative Marc Lombardo joined 98.5’s Zolak & Bertrand to discuss the bill. You can hear that conversation below.