01/16/2012 : Department of Justice policy change has acted as an accelerant, says state money man.
The state of Massachusetts is not hanging around following the surprise announcement late last year that the US Department of Justice had it all wrong in its interpretation of the Wire Act .
In an interview with the business section of the Boston Globe newspaper Friday, state treasurer Steve Grossman opined that the Massachusetts State Lottery may be headed to the Internet.
Grossman has formed a 20-person task force to consider whether Massachusetts should institute online sales of lottery tickets following the about-turn by the DoJ, characterising the development as “…a surprise that accelerates the urgency of dealing with online lottery sales and online gambling in general.’’
The task force includes representatives from the state treasurer’s office, the Massachusetts Lottery, private citizens, and elected officials, according to a spokesman for Grossman.
Gambling opponents would be appointed as members, too, he said, noting that the social impact of online gambling will be a major concern of the task force.
The state has also begun a search for an internet gambling consultant to provide expertise and research services.
Grossman said he expects to start meeting with task force members as early as “the next few weeks.’’
A local lawyer, Kimberly Herman, told the Globe that the DoJ's new position on the Wire Act begs the question of whether this will set the stage for a boom in non-sports Internet betting.
“If the Department of Justice is saying that the Wire Act only applies to sports-related wagering, then that opens it up for everyone else who is offering online poker, online table games, and so on,’’ she said. “There’s so much money involved, they are all going to rush in.’’
Four legislators have already been announced as members of the investigative team: Representative Timothy Toomey of Cambridge, a Democrat; Representative Daniel Winslow, a Republican from Norfolk; Senator Jennifer Flanagan, Democrat of Leominster; and Senator Richard Ross of Wrentham, a Republican.
Among the implications that the task force will consider are the impact of online ticket sales on retail ticket sellers, and how internet gambling could affect the recently approved construction and subsequent operation of three new land casino resorts in the state.
“What happens if there is unfettered online poker and online roulette in Massachusetts?’’ Grossman asked the Globe. “Will that cause casino companies to bid less aggressively for licenses?’’
The state treasurer said he has to take “an entrepreneurial and aggressive approach’’ to new online opportunities to ensure that Massachusetts does not lose revenue to other states that may embrace online gambling more aggressively.
“This is a fast-moving, highly competitive market,’’ Grossman said, “and this opinion only accelerates this moment of change.’’