Tuesday July 19,2011 : Online gambling's white knight supports proposal
In the same week that House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed legalization seeking to ban internet gambling in cyber cafes, the Massachusetts House of Assembly is poised to consider selling state lottery tickets online and by credit card, reports the Boston Herald.
Backers of the proposal claim it could boost cash-strapped state coffers by as much as $1 billion a year, and it has been supported by online gambling's white knight, Democrat Barney Frank.
“I don’t understand why liberals think they’re supposed to tell people not to gamble,” Frank told the Herald this week. “They favor gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and sex-oriented literature, but not gambling. It’s totally inconsistent. It’s wrong for state and federal government to make betting a crime. . . . I am in favor of people being able to gamble online.”
The proposal is that the state Lottery should launch a pilot program letting players use their credit cards to buy tickets on the Internet. Proponents claim that this could eventually spike sales by 10 percent to 25 percent, potentially raising another $1 billion a year for hard-pressed cities and towns in the state.
“The idea behind it is to increase Lottery sales and generate more revenues for the commonwealth," said John Regan, chief of staff for state Sen. Michael Rush, who introduced the measure. “Other states are doing it, and the senator thought it would be best to do a pilot program to see how much could be raised.”
Regan cited gambling industry estimates that up to 60,000 Bay State residents take part in unregulated Internet gambling, spending as much as $250,000 daily with offshore operators. “The Lottery can capture these revenues by offering (what) the online gaming residents want along with the transparent regulation that offshore regulators lack,” he claimed.
Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the online plan but wants to move slowly “because the Lottery is such a source of revenue for cities and towns, we want to make sure that any changes are done carefully.”
However, State Treasurer Steve Grossman has come out against the proposal: “Allowing credit card payments without careful analysis of the consequences could very easily exacerbate problem gambling across the state,” Grossman told the Herald.
New York, Minnesota, Virginia, Maryland and North Dakota currently sell lottery tickets online, and can do so thanks to carve-outs in federal legalization for state lotteries, fantasy sports and horseracing.
Carolyn Hapeman, a spokeswoman for the New York State Lottery, said Lotto and MegaMillions — the only two tickets available — sell an additional 95,000 season tickets online annually, ranging in price from $100 to $500 each.
“We introduced online purchases as a convenience to our customers because we want to offer products to people where they are,” she said. “Lots of our customers are snowbirds who winter in Florida or North Carolina, and it makes it easy for them to buy.”
Opposition is being encountered from convenience store lottery ticket retailers, who believe that online lottery sales will be bad for their businesses.