With Rhode Island recently legalizing online casinos, Massachusetts is surrounded by three states — Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey — where real-money online casino games are legal.
It’s a similar tale with online lottery. Both New Jersey and New Hampshire offer online lottery ticket sales.
And all these states legalized online sports betting before Massachusetts.
So, now that online sports betting in Massachusetts has been legal for more than half a year, it’s logical to ask: When will the next online gambling domino fall in the Bay State?
One prominent legal expert based in Boston told PlayMA the launch of sportsbook apps in Massachusetts may have actually slowed the march toward online casinos and online lottery — not sped it up, like many iGaming advocates have hoped.
“My view is that online lottery and iGaming are both inevitable in Massachusetts, but both have been displaced in the short term by the legalization of sports betting,” said Katherine Baker, a partner at national law firm Nelson Mullins and Chair of the firm’s Gaming Industry Group. “The legalization of sports betting, and the launch of online sports betting in particular, satisfied the demand for some form of mobile gaming in the Commonwealth.”
Online lottery isn’t a new topic in Massachusetts
Massachusetts online lottery legalization, more so than online casinos, has been a topic for several years. Lawmakers nearly signed off on starting an online lottery this summer. But the state’s 2024 budget, which the legislature approved in late July, left out a proposal legalizing an online lottery that the House of Representatives had approved.
Baker cited problem gambling concerns and fears from retailers who’d lose revenue from in-person ticket buying as main obstacles for online lottery legalization.
There are two standalone bills currently being discussed — one in the House and one in the Senate — but “the same obstacles remain,” Baker said. This current legislative session ends Nov. 15, so we’ll know by then if the two bills get any traction.
Baker doesn’t think they will.
“iGaming has suffered from slow adoption nationwide and, while legislation has been considered, has not gained traction in Massachusetts,” she told PlayMA. “I would predict we’ll see lottery go online in Massachusetts in the next few years before expanding into other forms of online gaming.”
Online lottery is legal in Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington DC.
Lottery popularity in Massachusetts
The lottery is quite popular in Massachusetts. The state offers statewide draw games like Mass Cash, The Numbers Game, Megabucks Doubler and All Or Nothing, in addition to Keno, instant-win games, Powerball and Mega Millions.
In fact, during the most recent Mega Millions jackpot run that eventually ended with a $1.6 billion winner in Florida, a PlayMA Google Trends analysis found that searches across the US related to Mega Millions were most popular in Massachusetts.
What about online casinos?
Online casino legalization has happened slower than sports betting, but more and more states are seriously considering legislation. Currently, iGaming is legal in eight states — Rhode Island (industry will launch in March 2024), Nevada (online poker only), Delaware, Connecticut, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Other states, including New York, Indiana, New Hampshire, Iowa, Illinois and Maryland, had bills authorizing online casinos on the table this year.