Online Gaming Legislation Introduced in Massachusetts

by Jim Hall

Senator Eileen DonoghueSenator Eileen Donoghue of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that will see online gambling as well as other gambling activities legalized in the state.

2018 has barely gotten started and already states have begun to show interest in expanding on existing gambling industries, from sports betting to lottery and online casino gambling. Legislation is being discussed in several states as well as introduced in others. In Massachusetts, State Senator Eileen Donoghue has introduced a measure that will not only allow the state to offer online casino and poker gaming, but also daily fantasy sports, plus start a study on online sports betting.

New Legislation on the Table

S 2480 is the legislation presented by Donoghue that will expand gambling in several areas for the state. Donoghue has experience in the subject of gambling as she has worked on efforts in the past. When the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports was created, she was named co-chair and the commission produced their findings in 2017. Now, Donoghue is spearheading efforts to see changes to the positive for the state involving gaming options.

The legislation is currently sitting in the Joint Committee on Rules and has some way to go before being able to be passed into law. The bill focuses on several areas including daily fantasy sports. In Massachusetts, DFS was legalized in 2016 but only temporary regulations were put in place. The current regulations will end in July, so this new bill puts permanent regulations in place.

The bill would require that current operators of DFS contests pay a one time fee that will be less than $100,000 or one and one-half percent of gross gaming revenues that were generated during the previous year. New operators to the industry would have to pay a registration fee of $50,000. Registered operators will have to pay a tax on their gross revenues of 15%.

Online Gaming in the Mix

In the bill, there is language involving DFS gaming but a section that includes a definition of Online Game. That reads that the game will be offered online or through communications technology where an individual can use money or currency of any kind to transmit information to risk something of value, on the outcome of an event or to win a prize.

The definition leaves the door open to online casino and poker gaming, setting the state up to offer such gaming options if they so choose. The language is general enough that the state could begin in the iGaming industry. The state is not necessarily ready to begin offering iGaming as they have casinos that have yet to open.

The MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor are still in the works with a proposed venue on the table for Martha’s Vineyard. Once these gaming venues are open, it would provide a land-based home base for the online gaming to operate from. If Massachusetts chooses to operate iGaming like other states, including New Jersey, they will focus on having licensed land-based venues partnering with online operators to offer gaming.

Massachusetts is almost an unlikely state to have expected online gaming legislation but while considering DFS and sports betting, it makes sense to include the other options as well. When it comes to sports betting, it appears that the legislation would set the state up to be ready to offer sports betting if the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey in the Christie vs. NCAA case. SCOTUS is set to rule by summer on the case, which could see sports betting a reality for every state in the US if they choose to pass legislation.