Online Gambling In Massachusetts Likely To Get Boost From Special Commission

Steve Ruddock June 7, 2017
Massachusetts online gambling boost

The Special Commission On Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming And Daily Fantasy Sports “appears poised to recommend a broad brush approach to regulating the industry,” according to the Massachusetts Statehouse News Service (paywall).

This news comes on the heels of the commission’s most recent meeting on Tuesday.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the nine-member commission met “to get a sense of where its members stand on issues discussed during public hearings,” according to Statehouse News.

Most members favor the omnibus approach to iGaming

Based on the statements from commissioners who spoke at the hearing, it appears the majority of the commission is leaning toward an omnibus approach first broached by Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby.

The omnibus approach would broadly legalize online gambling. It would also give the MGC the ability to craft rules and regulations for new products that will undoubtedly emerge. More from Statehouse News:

“Our view is that the Legislature’s job is to determine whether or not we want gambling online to be legal, and if the answer to that is yes, which it sort of presumptively appears to be, then come up with a regulatory environment that can deal with all of these things as they come down the pike and not have to try to be in a reactive mode,” Crosby said.

Hirak Shah, who was appointed to the commission by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, said the senator agreed. Tarr is the sponsor of an active online gambling bill.

A third commission member and the driving force behind Massachusetts’ efforts to legalize online lottery, Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, was also on board with the omnibus approach.

As a result, it’s fair to guess this approach is the most likely recommendation.

What happens next for Massachusetts online gambling?

The co-chairs have asked for each member to submit their individual recommendations by June 16.

The commission will then hold another public hearing to review its draft recommendations. That comes before submitting a report to the legislature prior to a July 31 deadline.

Unfortunately, by the time the recommendations are submitted, there may not be enough time for the legislature to act in 2017.

Still, as Chris Grove noted in Tuesday’s Grove Report:

“Most observers believe it is unlikely that Massachusetts will take legislative action this year, but a clear path articulated by the commission could in theory accelerate the process.”

The commission consists of:

  • Joseph Wagner, co-chair of the commission
  • Eileen Donoghue, co-chair of the commission
  • MGC Chairman Steve Crosby (appointed by the Gaming Commission)
  • Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (appointed by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg)
  • Rep. James Kelcourse (appointed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones)
  • Assistant Attorney General Dan Krockmalnic (appointed by Attorney General Maura Healey)
  • Fantasy Sports Trade Association Chairman Peter Schoenke (appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker)
  • Rep. Mark Cusack (appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo)
  • Hirak Shah (legal counsel to and appointed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr)
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