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Massachusetts Online Gambling Bill

By: Joan Peppin, Sunday July 31st 2011
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The latest online gambling news from the United States is that the state of Massachusetts is contemplating regulated intrastate online gambling in a limited way. Actually the proposal by way of Bill S.132 was filed in late January 2011 by State Senator Michael Rush. The bill is in the news again because a local newspaper the West Roxbury Patch reported on the hearing earlier this week in front of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The bill authorizes the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to conduct a two-year online gambling pilot program.

According to the claims made by the proponents of the bill, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could expect to net $ 1 billion per annum from the program. Senator Rush also said that regulated intrastate online gambling through the lottery would be safer for Massachusetts residents than wagering with offshore operators. The bill envisages that prepaid player accounts, similar to the model utilized in Canada, would allow the State to monitor gambling activity, expand age verification and minimize the incidence of problem gambling. In the pilot program, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission would be explore Internet sales channels, evaluate new technologies and delivery mechanisms and implement other innovations not previously offered. The proposed pilot program would run for twenty-four months. An interim report of the results would be delivered to the state government eighteen months into the program.

John Regan, State Senator Rush's chief of staff said, "Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of innovation in state lottery gaming and I believe that to continue to do so means adding robust online lottery gaming to the current offerings. This is more than just allowing the purchase of lottery tickets online this is a new, interactive way of playing the lottery through new online games of chance."

Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman had initially opined that the sale of lottery tickets online alongside games of chance would involve the payment or collection of funds for online gaming through US banks by credit card. This would violate provisions of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This claim was disputed by the Massachusetts Lottery Commission officials, who stated that five US states, New York, Minnesota, Virginia, Maryland and North Dakota, currently sell lottery tickets online. Later Grossman said that the measure should be passed by the legislature despite his concerns. He added, "It's clear Washington is moving toward online gambling. If Congress regulates the industry, Massachusetts wants to be one of the first States to take advantage of it, rather than being one of the states left behind."

In 2010 provisions that would allow for intrastate online gambling had to be dropped from a larger bill on gambling. The bill seeking to establish new land casinos was passed by the state House and Senate but vetoed by the governor.

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