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Online Gambling News From Massachusetts And Washington

By: Adam Baker, Monday February 25th 2013
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There has been increase in the level of online gambling legislation activity in the states of the USA in recent months. However not all of it is good news for online gambling players. In the latest round Massachusetts has taken tentative steps forward but Washington has reaffirmed its draconian antagonism to online gambling.

In Massachusetts two new bills have been submitted to the state Legislature by Senator Jennifer Flanagan and by Senator Bruce Tarr respectively. Flanagan’s bill seeks to allow online sale of state lottery tickets within the state. It also proposes the addition of a limited number of games like keno or scratch cards, with the provision for interstate agreements. It is Tarr’s bill that will be more actively followed by the online gambling industry. It seeks to empower the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to license and regulate suitable operators wishing to offer online gambling services in the state. It will, however, protect the state lottery by allotting a different set of games to these operators. Tarr’s bill also makes provision for interstate compacts with like-minded states. These bills are not going to be put to vote overnight because the process of committee hearings has to be undergone. But there is bound to be a sense of urgency because contiguous states like Delaware and New Jersey are significantly further ahead on the road to online gambling and Massachusetts will not want to get left behind.

The state of Washington holds online gambling to be C-class felony with penalties similar to those imposed for very serious criminal offences. Representative Paul Harris had moved a bill seeking to reduce the severity of the offences to a civil infraction carrying a $50 fine. Some legislators felt that Harris should have gone further, completely decriminalizing online gambling in the state. However, these legislators were in the minority. After two days of hearings, the bill was turned down by the House committee on government accountability and oversight. Representative Harris said that committee members had “...some concerns on clarity and requested a few minor fixes, but due to the short amount of time before cut-off we will have to wait until next year’s short session to get this passed.” A more extensive attempt will be made in 2014. The Poker Players Alliance, which supported Harris, stated that the attempt was a qualified success and that they would continue to help in laying the groundwork for next year’s attempt. Harris also hoped that at some time in the future online gambling would become legal in Washington.

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