Online Poker May be on the Agenda in Massachusetts
While the recent news of the marathon bombings and related tragedies in Boston have largely, and understandably, dominated national and international news media coverage this week, quietly another story related to Massachusetts was breaking – that being that online poker might soon be introduced in the state.
Already in the midst of expanding land-based gambling offerings, with casinos in the works for the Boston metropolitan area in addition to other sites in the state, Massachusetts legislators might be adding online wagering to the 2014 budget plan. Eighteen members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are backing adding a provision for online betting to the state’s budget bill for next year.
This comes on the heels of the passage of two online gambling related bills in the state, the first having to do with the online sale of lottery tickets, and the other would empower the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue Internet gaming licenses. If approved, three online gaming licenses would be issued in the state, with each being valid for a period of ten years.
An amendment proposed last week to the bill, which prohibits certain forms of online gambling, including online slots parlors, while clearing the way for the establishment of online poker sites and other table games such as blackjack, would prohibit licenses from being issued to companies who continued to operate real money gambling sites in the United States after the 2006 passage of the UIGEA.
The UIGEA did not explicitly outlaw online gambling, however it did prohibit the handling of certain transactions having to do with online gambling, which infamously led to payment processors working for Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and other US-facing online poker sites disguising transactions as an array of other types of charges, such as purchases from sporting goods retailers and other non-gambling commercial transactions.
Should Massachusetts officials green light online gaming, it will join Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in having done so. Much like as with laws passed in those states, Massachusetts law would bar players below the age of twenty-one from logging onto the online gambling sites, and residents will also be required to be physically present in the state in order to access the real money games. In Nevada, residents will only be permitted to play online poker, however New Jersey and Delaware have passed broader laws that will allow for other types of Internet-based wagering in addition to online poker.
This week also marked the second anniversary of Black Friday, the day on which the United States government cracked down on online poker in the United States. While many fans of the game and proponents of its regulation took the opportunity to remark on how little has changed in terms of the online poker landscape in the nation in the time since Black Friday, there are others who have viewed the situation with optimism. In addition to the three states that have already passed online gambling legislation, an increasingly large handful of others are also contemplating regulation of Internet betting, among them Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California.