Wednesday May 22,2013 : ONLINE GAMBLING LEGALISATION MOVE IN MASSACHUSETTS
 
Amendment to be attached to budget bill
 
Massachusetts Senate Republicans plan to introduce an amendment to the current 2014 fiscal budget debate today (Wednesday) that proposes the regulation of online gambling operated by the state's existing land casino licensees.
 
The Massachusetts initiative mirrors a tactic earlier this year in Illinois, where a similar amendment was attempted but failed, and is now being presented as a stand-alone bill .
 
The Taunton Gazette reports that under the amendment, online gaming revenue would be taxed at 20 percent and licensees would pay an initial fee of not less than $300,000, along with an annual renewal fee of not less than $150,000.
 
The proposal also specifies that licensees can not offer any online game in conflict with the state Lottery; that players are 21 or older to place wagers or collect winnings; and that players be physically located in Massachusetts to place wagers or collect winnings, with certain exceptions.
 
The amendment is among a series of proposals sponsored by the four-member Senate GOP caucus to boost the economy and revenue and save money, according to Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who told the Gazette that the $33.9 billion spending plan recommended by Senate Democrats fails to reform public subsidy and welfare programs – the subject of several GOP amendments.
 
The schedule for the budget debate is crammed with many other amendments, and debate is expected to go on for some time.
 
In related news, the Illinois stand-alone internet gambling legalization bill will have to wait in line with other legalization subservient to the state governor's priority of pension reform.
 
Governor Pat Quinn is well-known for his anti-gambling views, and he is using the gambling expansion and online gambling bills, along with other legalization, as leverage to pass pension reform legalization.
 
This week the governor made it clear that pension reform comes first, and that he will not entertain the prospect of signing off on other legalization taking precedence over this priority bill.
 
Speaking to the Chicago Tribune this week, Quinn said that he would "…never, ever sign a gaming expansion absent comprehensive pension reform."
 
The state has a potential pension deficit of $100 billion, and this thorny issue has been the subject of repeated deferrals by successive state governments.
 
The stand-alone online gambling bill is being driven by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and is currently being circulated in draft form.
 
With the current legislative session ending later this (May) month, the pressure is on.