Is Online Gambling Coming to Massachusetts?

by Jim Hall

Massachusetta StateRecent developments in the state of Massachusetts in regards to daily fantasy sports and online lottery have many wondering if the state is setting up to offer online gambling options.

Every state in the US has the option to pass legislation to offer gaming online. Only three have taken advantage of this opportunity thus far, with other states beginning to show interest. While Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey offer online gaming, from poker to casino options, other states already provide online lottery options along with daily fantasy regulations. In the last few years, many states have opted to sell lottery tickets online and over the past few months, daily fantasy sports have become an area in which legislators have enforced regulations, in varying states.

The state of Massachusetts is the latest to consider both daily fantasy sports and the online lottery which has many wondering if online gambling will be next. As the 2016 session of legislation comes to a close, legislators have passed a bill that will legalize daily fantasy sports within the state as well as called for a commission to be created to study DFS contests as well as an online lottery.

Online lottery sales was almost enacted but was removed from a House bill after it passed through the Senate. H 4569 is a measure that legalizes DFS gaming as a placeholder for operators to offer services until 2018, on July 31st. This bill coincides with regulations created by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

With the two year window, the DFS commission, once created, will be able to perform studies on the industry and then report findings, while operators continue to offer DFS contests. The bill does have to be signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker before it can be official.

Is Online Gambling Next?

With the quick movement of DFS and online lottery consideration in the state, many are wondering if online gambling is next. Discussions of online gambling may be renewed once again with the introduction of the DFS legislation that includes discussions of an online lottery. It will be interesting to watch and see if legislators bring up such gaming options as DFS is discussed further.

Massachusetts Has Always Had An Eye On iGambling

While Pennsylvania and California have been strong contenders to be the next state to offer online gambling options, Massachusetts has always had their eye on the industry. The state was one of the first to look at the industry seriously in 2013 when the option became available. In the beginning, prohibitive efforts were considered but legislators soon began to explore the industry including the online lottery. In 2013, the state actually tried to create an online gambling bill three times but was unsuccessful.

As The Years Went By

The state continued to look at the online gambling industry as the years went by, hosting an Online Gambling Forum in March of 2014 as well as seeing the State Lottery Commission proposing legislation to legalize iGambling. However, land based gambling was being introduced at the time and legislators felt it was more important to see this category be finished first before going online. Essentially, 2014 and 2015 were quiet after legislators decided to wait until the land based gaming venues were established first.

Industry analysts feel that 2017 could see the state pass legislation for online gambling. Several venues are set to open in the coming years which would provide land based partners for online operators, if the state plans on following the example of other states, requiring such partnerships to exist. The First Light Casino is set to open next fall while MGM Springfield has a 2018 opening date and Wynn Everett will follow in 2019.