Online Gambling Legislation Reintroduced in Massachusetts

by Jim Hall

Online gambling is back in the mix with Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr reintroducing legislation in regards to the matter.

Online gambling is a hot topic in the United States as several states are looking into overall gambling, casino gambling, poker, daily fantasy sports and sports betting, all activities that would be enjoyed online. In the United States, only New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada offer real money online gambling that is legalized and regulated. Massachusetts is one such state that considered legislation in the past and now a measure has been reintroduced to try and see iGaming legalization come into effect.

Bill Back in Action

Senator Bruce TarrSenate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has brought back legislation that will see online gambling legalized in the state. The two page bill does not have the key information that many bills involving gambling such as licensing, regulations and taxation. The bill, SD 618, says that notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, a gaming license pursuant to Chapter 23K of the general laws may also be licensed…to conduct gaming operations via the internet, provided that the operations do not include or reflect gaming mechanisms operated by the state lottery program of those simulating or resembling slot machines, so-called, provided that such license obtains an Internet Gaming License pursuant to this section.

Because land based gaming venues with a current license will be limited to offer online gaming, only Penn National, Wynn and MGM will be allowed to offer online options. Tarr has been trying for some time to see online gambling take place in the state, considering shell legislation that was introduced in 2015/2016, with S 241.

A Grander Scale

It seems that Senator Tarr’s online gaming bill is just one part of a larger puzzle when considering online gaming. Last year, the state passed a bill that included daily fantasy sports. The bill will see legislators craft permanent regulations in a two year time frame and in the interim the regulations that were created by Maura Healey, Attorney General of the state, are acting as placeholder.

Jennifer Flanagan, a senator of the state, has reintroduced a measure that will authorize the state lottery with the ability to sell tickets online. A similar bill was introduced by the senator last year and was able to pass within the Senate before it fell short in the House of Representatives. Online lottery sales are supported by other lawmakers in the state including State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

The recently created Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports is looking into a wide range of regulation options for online gambling as well as daily fantasy sports. The commission will be supplying legislators with their findings in a report as well as recommendations on what the state should do in regards to the gaming categories by the 31st of July.

Maybe a Problem?

Analysts have considered that the fact that the Special Commission must provide a report and recommendations may slow down progress for the year. If the report is due by the end of July, it may be many more months before legislators create legislation in regards to online gaming, covering all or a few of the categories of iGaming. If too much time passes, then it could be that Massachusetts will miss 2017 as a year to pass online gaming bills and players would have to wait until 2018 before being able to enjoy casino gaming, poker and more online. Only time will tell if a bill will be introduced and passed this year, but efforts do seem promising.