Massachusetts Lottery Pushes for Online Gaming and Sports Betting
One of the few states that has seemed certain to legalize online gaming for several years is Massachusetts. Some lawmakers have been pushing for legalized online poker and casino games since first witnessing the success of that industry in nearby New Jersey. And the now-former Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby was a staunch supporter of gambling expansion that included online options.
Yet it still hasn’t happened. Too many lawmakers in Massachusetts had too many questions, and it all led to a comprehensive gambling study by a special commission in 2017. Its findings pointed to an eventual move to online gambling but that daily fantasy sports should be the beginning. And by setting up a DFS regulatory system, online poker and casino games could follow in subsequent years and fall in line with established regulations.
There have been recent efforts. For example, State Senator Eileen Donoghue introduced a bill in January 2018 to legalize and regulate online poker, casino games, DFS, and sports betting. The bill did lead to another piece of legislation that proposed another study about economic benefits, but efforts didn’t go much further.
Meanwhile, Crosby resigned from the Gaming Commission in September 2018 due to allegations of prejudging allegations regarding casino mogul Steve Wynn. Since then, Cathy Judd-Stein was appointed as the new chairperson of the MGC, though she has yet to weigh in on internet gaming in a public way.
Even so, there are bills ready to be discussed in the state legislature. They were introduced this year. And Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg recently expressed enthusiastic support for online gaming. It remains to be seen, however, if Goldberg’s nudge pushes any lawmakers to take action.
Internet Gaming Bills of 2019
A set of bills was introduced on January 22 without any fanfare, and the bills were immediately referred to the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee. Republican State Representative Bradford Hill presented all of them.
H.377 seems to be the primary piece of legislation, as it states it is “to regulate online gaming, daily fantasy, and online sports betting.” Any operators applying for a license to operate in Massachusetts will pay a fee of $100K or 1.5% of the gross revenue generated in the previous calendar year (whichever is lesser) or $50K for new operators. And operators will pay 15% of gross gaming revenue going forward, all of which is to be regulated and monitored by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Hill lists three other legislators as petitioners on H.377: Republican Representatives Joseph McKenna, Mathew Muratore, and Michael Soter.
Accompanying bills start with H.375 and H.376, both of which order the creation of a public advancement fund with monies collected from registrations and renewals of online gaming and sports betting licenses. H.378 seems to do the same only with any monies received from the specified gaming activities, and H.379 calls for the increase of education funding from those same monies.
State Treasurer on Board
One person in the Massachusetts government knows exactly the status of the incoming and outgoing money for the state, and she had no trouble speaking her mind about it at a recent meeting of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees.
Treasurer Goldberg's full remarks for the Joint Ways & Means Committee Hearing https://t.co/0in37OZoQO
— Deborah Goldberg (@MassTreasury) March 5, 2019
Treasurer Deb Goldberg started by telling the committee members that an online lottery would improve sales and subsequent revenue dramatically. She noted that New Hampshire collected more tan $1.3 million in revenue from online lottery ticket sales in the first 12 weeks alone, and she asked lawmakers to consider doing the same for Massachusetts.
Goldberg was speaking on behalf of her own bill, submitted by the Office of the State Treasurer, listed as H.37, to establish an online lottery. Others have introduced similar bills for online lottery legalization, such as S.109 from Democratic State Senator William Brownsberger and H.3548 from Democratic Representative Daniel Cahill.
According to the Herald News, Goldberg told legislators that Massachusetts needs to compete with other states that have not only put lottery games online but legalized sports betting and online gaming to bring in more gambling revenue. She primarily focused on internet lottery and sports betting bills awaiting consideration, she was specific about the need for the state to modernize and keep up with the changing landscape as other states have done and are doing.
Legal sports betting in Massachusetts (both retail and online) could generate over $400 million in annual gaming revenues, per @MassGamingComm.
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) January 17, 2019
Earlier in that hearing, Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan fielded some questions about sports betting and potential cannibalization of revenue, and his answers pertained to all forms of gambling. He said of sports betting that it is “very symbiotic with the physical gaming facilities, as it drives people to those facilities to do other gambling, spend money on beverage and entertainment.”
Should the lawmakers in those committees take that type of testimony to heart, Massachusetts may be keeping the door open for further consideration of online poker and casino games, in addition to online lottery sales and sports betting.