Monday April 14,2014 : MASSACHUSETTS DITHERS ON INTERNET GAMBLING
Conflicting views from state leaders make this one hard to call.
Is this the year that Massachusetts joins Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey in legalising online gambling? The apparently conflicting opinions of state leaders make it hard to call.
There has certainly been ample debate on the issue within the state legislature, where a number of legalization attempts have been launched through the budget and legislative process – thus far without finalisation – and important leaders like Treasurer Steve Grossman and state Senator Bruce Tarr seem to be behind the idea
Whilst the attempt to use the budget to get legalization through failed, two other proposals remain alive if sluggish in the state legislature; one seeking to legalise online lottery activity and a more ambitious measure looking to make all intrastate online gambling legal, regulated and taxed.
Then there's state Senator Jennifer Flanagan, who is not necessarily against legalization, but is pushing for a more careful "wait and see" approach that takes into account developments in other states, along with federal moves for and against the pastime.
Sen. Flanagan would probably support an investigative proposal that was introduced this year, suggesting that a thorough and practical enquiry into the pros and cons of online gambling in Massachusetts be advanced.
Adding further confusion to the mix, the latest Massachusetts leader to comment on the issue, commissioner on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission James McHugh, has opined that there will be no legalization of internet gambling in Massachusetts this year.
Speaking at a gambling forum held at the Borgata Atlantic City, McHugh confirmed that serious consideration was being given to the legalization of online gambling, but that it was unlikely that any bill would be passed in the current legislative season.
Media reports suggest that the internet gambling legalization issue is being overshadowed by laws passed two years ago permitting the construction and licensing of up to three brick and mortar resort casinos and a slots-only parlour in Massachusetts to counter growing competition from its neighbours.
And at the beginning of this year Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby made it clear that he had “…taken the position that Massachusetts shouldn’t do anything in online gambling until our bricks-and-mortar people are selected”, a process due to be finalised this year.
However, that did not prevent the Commission from running an informative and lively i-gaming forum on March 11, where industry luminaries exchanged upbeat opinions and discussed possibilities.
If it does adopt a "wait and see" approach, Massachusetts will not be the first to do so; Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania are all actively considering online gambling, but have adopted the more cautious route, waiting for major states like California to make a move in order to decide on the best way forward.