Commission Created to Study Online Gaming in Massachusetts

by Jim Hall

The Massachusetts Gaming CommissionMassachusetts is the latest state to create a special gaming study commission to review such gaming activities as DFS and casino gaming.

Across the United States, individual states are beginning to consider online gaming. While only three states offer casino or poker gaming, there are states who provide online lottery sales. This is about the extent of gaming options that are offered when it comes to online game play. Many states have started to create special commissions who sole purpose is to study the industry and determine if legalizing gaming is the right move for that particular state. The latest state to create a new commission is Massachusetts, one that will study daily fantasy sports as well as casino gaming.

Setting Up the Commission

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held a meeting last week in which a vote took place in regards to creating a panel to study gaming. The vote was unanimous, 4 to 0, with the special commission being created and having the very first meeting by the 1st of November. The new commission will be led by Representative Joseph Wagner and Senator Eileen Donoghue, the chairs of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Additional members of the committee include Steve Crosby, the chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Appointees will be provided by the following offices to join Crosby on the commission:

An individual provided by the state Attorney General with experience in fantasy sports consumer protection

An individual with fantasy sports industry experience provided by Governor Charlie Baker

Individuals appointed by the legislative leaders

The commission is expected to work together and create a report based on the findings of their study. The report is scheduled to be due on the 31st of July. The study can include most forms of gambling but has been cut off at reporting anything about the lottery online or otherwise.

Crosby commented during the commission meeting that hopefully the special commission will be an opportunity to continue with an initiative to come up with omnibus legislation that will provide Legislature as well as the Gaming Commission with the necessary tools to regulate all aspects of online gaming.

The Omnibus Approach

Crosby has referred to an omnibus approach in his discussions of online gaming activity which refers to the legalization and regulation of basically all forms of online gambling at one time. This would include poker, casino, daily fantasy sports and the lottery.

Late last year, Crosby discussed such a measure, stating that if a bill was created that incorporated regulatory priorities as well as fundamental values, then the bill could be applied to all games, daily fantasy sports, poker, etc. Then the regulations could be given to an agency to implement and the grunt work would be done every six months, applying to any new technology as it is developed.

Basically, the omnibus approach would take care of all gaming aspects at once. States have legalized gaming in the past but only done so with one aspect at a time. The Massachusetts lawmakers are looking to pass legislation at once so they have all their bases covered, not having to go back and look at other aspects of gamin gin the future.

On the DFS front, State Attorney General Maura Healey filed regulations for the industry back in March and while not considered legal, Healey has started the process to legally allow such contests in the state. With an omnibus approach, DFS as well as other gaming options will be covered, allowing the state to provide a wealth of online gambling activities for residents as well as visitors. However, with the commission just now being created and the report not due until next year, it will be some time before we see any legislative movement in the state in regards to online gambling.