Two Massachusetts bills seek to regulate senior center gambling

May 22, 2023
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State representatives propose low individual bets and max winnings for popular games such as local favorite, pitch.

Massachusetts’ legalization of sports betting has shed light on certain card games and gambling that are popular in senior centers. However, these games may have their own exceptions written into proposed legislature.

Small stakes games and gambling used to be a large draw that fostered community within senior centers, whose patrons would play popular card games like ‘pitch’ in rooms full of 50-60 people. Without the ability to wager, seniors are saying the conditions are no longer pitch-perfect and fewer people are interested in playing.

State representatives Angelo Puppolo and Brian M. Ashe have proposed separate bills that would allow limited, legal gambling in the Bay State’s senior centers. Card games including pitch, bridge and poker, among other games like bingo, could all be wagered on, as part of Puppolo’s bill.

“Nobody’s going to become a millionaire,” Puppolo said. “It’s just a matter of being able to have a little more excitement for our seniors.”

This excitement amounts to a proposed restriction of $5 individual bets per session, with a max of $20 per “single game or session.” Ashe’s bill sets a winnings cap of $50.

Both bills have nearly a dozen co-sponsors each. State Senator Bud L. Williams, who supports Puppolo’s bill, has commented, “At the rate we’re going, everything is going to be legalized, in terms of gambling.”

Cathy Ferrero, patron of the West Springfield Senior Center, specifically created a petition that holds 35 signatures in support of the bill to permit “safe gambling” within her community. She is aiming to gain 100 signatures.

Opposition, however, has come from seniors such as Marcia Crenshaw, who commented on the financial irresponsibility of the games, “When you’re a senior, you’re on a limited income,” she said. “It’s not like when you are working.”

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