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No Online Gambling for Massachusetts

By: Adam Baker, Wednesday November 16th 2011
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The drama is over and the curtain has fallen. There will be no online gambling for the American state of Massachusetts, at least not till someone starts a fresh initiative. And that is not likely to happen any time soon.

The drama began when Representative Dan Winslow attached an online gambling legalization amendment to Massachusetts legislation approving new land casinos in the state. In September 2011, this attempt met with success when the House of Representatives passed the bill. The online gambling amendment had been diluted during the discussions, but was still attached to the bill and gave hope to those state residents who were interested in online gambling.

Unfortunately the Massachusetts Senate passed the bill after totally eliminating the clause that would kick start online gambling processes. Most experts declared then that there was no hope for online gambling in the state. However, technically an opportunity remained. The two versions of the land casino bill went to a six-member, bi-partisan conference committee to be reconciled into one final measure. This was as per legislative protocol, which allowed for any differences in the House and Senate bills to be reconciled by conference.

The state legislature was in its last few days before the November adjournment. The conference committee quickly achieved a consensus that included dropping the online gambling amendment from the House version of the bill. The message is loud and clear that the Massachusetts lawmakers are not prepared to get embroiled in this contentious issue this point. The reconciled bill was passed the state House earlier this week on a 118-33 vote. The Senate approval followed with a 23-14 vote. A procedural vote will be held to send the combined bill to Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval for signature into law.

The expansion of land casinos in Massachusetts as envisaged in the bill will result in the creation of as many as 15,000 jobs in the state and the generation of at least $300 million in new annual revenue for the state. An interesting clause in the final bill bars state, county and local officials, including state legislators, from working in the casino industry for at least one year after leaving office if those officials were involved with voting on or regulating the land casinos.

In a broader pan American picture, the Congressman who has resisted online gambling legalization at every forum is in a spot of bother. This has nothing to do with online gambling though. Alabama Representative and House Financial Services Committee Chairman, Spencer Bachus, has been accused of profiting from insider knowledge of the 2008 financial meltdown. The whole story was aired on CBS 60 Minutes. It is too early to tell what shape future events will take, but the pro online gambling lobbies will be watching developments with interest.

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