Online Gambling in Massachusetts

3 years ago
Online Gambling Bill Proposed in Massachusetts
26 Nov

The online-gambling legality debate in Massachusetts is taking place even before the three casinos planned for the state have opened their doors.

A senate leader has already proposed and sponsored a bill which would allow the state’s casinos – including an $800 million MGM Resorts International set to open next year in Springfield – to offer online betting.

The Republican Minority leader Bruce Tarr, who has been a Massachusetts Senate member since 1995, believes that his proposal will aid the fledgling casino industry to capture their share of the gambling dollars in the region.

It will also raise much-needed tax revenue for the state and local government say supporters of the bill – an argument which has been mooted in several states currently considering the legalisation of online gambling.

Tarr, who represents Gloucester in the Senate, explained:

We don't want them to be undermined by other states that allow it."

Aside from the MGM Resorts International development, the Las Vegal casino mogul Steve Wynn has plans for a 24-storey resort along the Everett waterfront according to local sources, which also state that ‘several casino operators are competing for a license in the South Shore region.’

Tarr’s bill would not allow for new casino licences, and the hugely popular DFS – currently under scrutiny at a state and federal level – would also not be permitted to operate at the casinos under the proposed legislation.

Currently Penn National Gaming has invested $225million in their Plainville harness-racing track in the state, which opened in June as an expanded slot parlor. Under legislation the state will receive 49% of slot parlor revenue and 25% from casinos once they are up and running.

This financial boost to the state’s economy has nevertheless seen detractors of the plans to increase the state’s gambling infrastructure, including the online options under consideration.

The Cigna Foundation recently produced a study which suggested that several hundred thousand Massachusetts residents, as much as 7.5% of the State’s population, were considered ‘at risk’ gamblers, with adolescents the most vulnerable.

Our concern is that this would make gambling easier and more accessible," explained Krystle Kelly, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, asking, "Are we making it easier for people to fall deeper and deeper into trouble?"

Aside from such concerns, within the industry there are still arguments over what benefits legalisation of online gambling would accrue.

Chris Moyer, a spokesperson for the American Gaming Association, commented:

There's varying interest from the industry. There's some who view it was a way to attract more people, and others who see it as possibly decreasing the number of customers to land-based casinos."

The hoped-for tax revenues for state and local government coffers have not always appeared as quickly as projected in other states which have passed such legislation.

As reported here on PokerTube back in September, Delaware – with three regulated online sites in its jurisdiction - “posted total revenues of US$28,158 last month…a 9.9% decline year-on-year, and is the lowest revenue that has been recorded in the state since January this year.”

The article also highlights that “the two other states to have online poker industries – New Jersey and Nevada – have also had less than stellar bottom lines throughout 2015.”

With Massachusetts state officials claiming that the state’s casinos are projected to pull in more than $300million per year in tax revenue, there are concerns that the Bay State casinos “will enter a region already flush with well-established gambling facilities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and New York,” a factor which has some officials worried about ‘saturation of the regional market’.

Plainridge Park Casino reportedly expects to draw around $176 million in its first full year, some $24 million or so less than the $200 million projected by the state.

A U.S. Justice Department ruling in 2011 gave states authority to offer Internet gambling to residents. Only three -- Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey -- have taken advantage of the ruling.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, approved online gambling in the Garden State two years ago as part of an effort to prop up Atlantic City's struggling casinos.

New Jersey officials are also seeking to legalize fantasy sports betting at casinos, but that proposal has been tied up in court challenges from college and professional sports franchises that oppose legalized wagering on their games.

Meanwhile, Congress has been debating a bill -- backed by some casino operators -- that forces those states to end their online gambling operations unless they accept federal sanctions.

For states that allow gambling - online or otherwise - big money is at stake.

Massachusetts will take 49 percent of gambling revenues from the slots parlor and 25 percent from the casinos once they open.

Overall casinos are expected to drum up more than $300 million a year in taxes -- money for education, local governments and other budget items, state officials say.

But the Bay State's casinos will enter a region already flush with well-established gambling facilities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and New York.

That has state officials concerned about a saturation of the regional market.

Plainridge Park Casino reported $12.9 million in revenue in October, down from $18 million in July. It expects to generate about $176 million in its first full year, roughly $24 million less than the state’s $200 million projection.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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