Massachusetts is considering legalizing state regulated online gambling in the wake of a declining state Lottery. The MA state Lottery sales haven’t been up to par when compared to past years and even recent months, with an estimated $6 million decrease in sales from February. This decrease in Lottery expenditure has driven lawmakers to look at online gambling as a saving grace. MA Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has filed a bill that would allow the Lottery to offer online and smartphone casino games. Those behind the legalization efforts believe online gambling will reach the coveted younger demographic and revitalize the state economy.
Online gambling has become increasingly popular over the years, however state and federal laws have kept it in the dark. There are legally licensed and regulated legal gambling sites that bettors could use, but none of the profits would be going back to the state. These offshore Massachusetts online gambling sites are legal, but don’t benefit the state’s local economy like state based gambling sites would.
The Federal Wire Act, a USA online gambling law that once applied to all forms of online gambling, was deemed to only apply to online sports betting by the Department of Justice back in 2011. This decision freed up the bulk of the online gambling market and the government decided to leave it up to each individual state to decide if they wanted online gambling or not. MA would be one of the leaders in the online gambling revolution, as not many states have opted to launch anything yet.
The online gambling that state lawmakers are trying to bring in would see online casino-style games, electronic versions of poker and blackjack and more. Technology now allows for easy access to online material, so residents would be more inclined to gamble if they could at their own convenience. There are also video-versions of games that could be gambled on, like video-poker. These versions are emerging as popular outlets and the state looks keen to capitalize on that.
One concern voiced by critics say that these sites would have a difficult time validating the age of bettors (the legal gambling age is 18) and if they are actually located in MA. New Jersey has already implemented an online gambling market that uses GPS tracking software to verify the location of its users. Online gaming experts have expressed that there is actually more protection for gamblers who are playing online than there are for offline gaming.
“The ‘know-your-customer’ and anti-money laundering features of online gambling are much more robust than in a casino environment, where you can play anonymously, or when you’re buying a lottery ticket and they don’t necessarily know who you are,” said Kevin Mullally, the Vice President of Government Relations at Gaming Laboratories International.
There is still time to flesh out the logistics of how online gambling will look in the state as lawmakers have until July 31st to tweak the legislation. Whether online gambling will be offered through the Lottery or through a separate state-regulated entity remains to be seen, but if MA successfully passes this resolution they will open the door for other states to follow suit.