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Massachusetts Files Online Gambling Amendment

By: Joan Peppin, Sunday September 11th 2011
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Massachusetts is already discussing a bill that, if passed, will allow the state to expand its land gambling projects. On Friday September 9, State Representative Dan Winslow has filed an amendment to the bill to allow for online gambling in the form of Internet poker.

Winslow is a Republican from Norfolk. He said that his proposal fits into the window allowed in the gambling bill and has support from experts in the field. It could provide a significant revenue source, create high tech jobs in the software and regulatory arenas and cater to the demand for online gambling in Massachusetts. The Winslow amendment is likely to come for discussion next Wednesday according to reports in the Boston media. Winslow added, "This one, I think, is a great opportunity for Massachusetts to take the lead. No state in the country has yet enacted legislation to authorize and regulate Internet poker." Online gambling proposals have been moved in New Jersey, Hawaii, Florida, California and Nevada but have not yet been implemented.

Winslow has spelt out the details of the proposal, which envisages that there should be five licenses awarded each with a life of five years. A rake of 10% would be levied on every pot and the state of Massachusetts would receive 70% of the rake. Unlike the proposals of some of the other states in America, Winslow's proposal is not restricted to intrastate online gambling. Players from all over the world could sign up with the licensees. Winslow also offers several justifications for this online gambling amendment. Poker is widely accepted as a game of skill and is therefore different from other online casino games. Online poker is a fact of life in Massachusetts. It needs state regulation so as to assure integrity.

Winslow has met instant and vehement opposition from state Treasurer Steven Grossman, who called the plan "reckless and irresponsible" as well as a violation of federal law. He said that introduction of online gambling would undercut the value of the three land casino licenses that are being considered in the main bill and would cause a loss to the state exchequer. He also objected to the amendment being introduced without prior discussion with anybody in the legislature. This has led to a war of words with Winslow accusing the Democrats of secrecy and closed door discussions.

Winslow's plan, if passed, would require the newly created Massachusetts Gaming Commission to develop model legislation and regulations for online poker by July 1 next year.

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