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MA Attorney General’s Anti-Online Gaming Argument Just Doesn’t Make Sense

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Online gaming supporters are accustomed to dealing with misinformation campaigns, hypocritical stances, and exaggerated what-ifs from the anti-online crowd.

We’ve seen it all: everything from web ads featuring terrorists trotted out by the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, to the hyperbolic fears of underage gamblers, to the roundly rejected claims of land-based cannibalization.

Well, at least we thought we’d seen it all.

Usually, these attacks come from people and groups with obvious agendas. That isn’t the case when it comes to the most recent critic of online gambling, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

The recent stance taken by the attorney general is one of the most astounding cases of a willfully ignorant online gambling double standard to date. The most troubling aspect is it’s coming from the pulpit of a highly respected office.

You can’t have it both ways

First, let’s not look past the fact that it was Healey who crafted the current regulations on daily fantasy sports (DFS) in Massachusetts.

Healey doesn’t have any qualms about DFS being legal, or the efficacy of the regulations she drew to protect DFS customers, yet she somehow doesn’t think “consumers can be adequately protected if gaming opportunities proliferate on the internet.” This is according to Assistant Attorney General Dan Krockmalnic.

Krockmalnic made the comment during a July 31 meeting of the Massachusetts Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports, just before abstaining from voting on the final proposal.

What Healey and her office don’t understand is DFS and online gaming regulations are an apples-to-apples comparison. The regulations that would protect online casino and online poker players are the same regulations that protect DFS consumers.

Both industries require:

  • Age, identity, and location verification
  • Following federal anti-money laundering procedures
  • Implementing responsible gaming policies
  • Instituting third-party audits to ensure game integrity and player fund segregation

If the attorney general doesn’t trust online gaming safeguards, she can’t trust DFS safeguards. They are one in the same. Her position is akin to saying consumers can trust helmets will protect kids on bicycles but not on skateboards.

Regulated online gaming sites have better consumer protections

Healey also falls into the trap that has ensnared so many anti-gambling people: conflating regulated and unregulated gambling.

As noted many, many times, opposing regulated online gaming is the same as supporting the status quo in Massachusetts, which is unregulated online gambling. It’s unregulated sites that are the real problem.

The Massachusetts AG falsely believes the state cannot regulate online gaming despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. This evidence includes annual reports from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, including this one, which states, “From a regulatory standpoint, our system is working.”

But if the AG requires more evidence that regulated online gaming works, we can help out:

I would ask the AG precisely what proposed online gaming regulation she doesn’t trust. If there was systemic abuse or faulty consumer protections, Adelson and anti-online gambling groups would be trotting it out at every opportunity.

The reason they don’t is because the industry is regulated well.

Healey is not a fan of gambling

So why would Healey make such a sweeping, generalized critique of online gambling?

It may be that she simply doesn’t like gambling.

During her 2014 campaign, Healey was publicly in favor of repealing the Massachusetts casino law passed in 2011.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but disparaging an industry she morally opposes isn’t something I expect from someone in such a prominent position — a position where getting facts straight is of the utmost importance.

If the AG is against online gaming so be it; but promoting false concerns about an industry through the power of her position as the chief law enforcement officer in Massachusetts is reprehensible.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player.

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