Massachusetts Is Getting Added To The Online Gambling Watch List For 2017

November 4, 2016
Massachusetts Is Getting Added To The Online Gambling Watch List For 2017

Massachusetts has long been flirting with the idea of tackling online gambling and/or poker.

So far, those flirtations haven’t gotten past the chatting stage. But things are ramping up with the first meeting of a new commission this week meant to take a closer look at online gambling and daily fantasy sports.

The latest from Massachusetts

Massachusetts formally legalized daily fantasy sports in the commonwealth in the context of an economic development law enacted earlier this year.

That same law created the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports. That body got together for its initial meeting on Monday.

The impetus for the commission has to do more with DFS than online gambling, despite the latter’s prominence in the commission’s name. The legality and regulation of DFS in Massachusetts has been a point of focus there for more than a year.

The focus was made clear by comments from members of the commission, who were mostly eager to talk about the subject of fantasy sports. More from Rep. Joseph Wagner, a member of the commission, via  the State House News Service:

“We codified statutorily the standing of daily fantasy sports operations as legal entities but with a sunset provision,” Wagner said. “It’s the hope that the work of this commission and whatever product, and perhaps legislative product, may come from it will provide guidance going forward.

But still, online gambling is going to be considered in tandem with DFS, even though they come from the vastly different starting points of being illegal and legal, respectively, in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts’ history with online gambling

This is far from the first time that the Bay State will consider online gambling:

  • In 2013, lawmakers attempted to attach online poker to budget and expenditure measures.
  • The state hosted an internet gambling forum in 2014.
  • Throughout 2016, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission studied online gambling and suggested an “omnibus” approach to regulate forms of internet gaming, including DFS.
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What’s next in the state

The commission has until July to meet — which it plans to do regularly — and deliver its findings to the legislature.

We can expect to get an indication of what the commission will end up recommending to the statehouse over the course of those meetings. Will it focus on DFS, and punt on online gambling? Or will the rubber finally meet the road for Massachusetts and iGaming?

Given the time and effort being put into the commission — and the important government officials that are a part of it — the commission’s findings should be taken seriously.

So if online gambling is deemed viable and important to legalize and regulate by this panel, expect it to crop up in legislation.

Still, the window might stretch into the following year; the DFS law remains in effect until the summer of 2018, lessening the need for quick action. But 2017 could be the most interesting year yet in Massachusetts for proponents who would like to see online gambling progress — or perhaps even legalization.

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