[toc]State Senator Jennifer Flanagan is moving on from the Massachusetts legislature to take a seat on the Cannabis Control Commission. This means Massachusetts is losing one of its online lottery champions.
Fortunately, it looks like the person filling her seat will not be a barrier to online lottery.
According to local press reports, four of the five candidates running for Flanagan’s seat support online lottery… to varying degrees.
Here’s a look at what each candidate had to say to the Sentinel & Enterprise.
Claire Freda (Independent)
Citing New Hampshire’s authorization of online lottery sales earlier this year, Leominster City Councilor Claire Freda, told the Sentinel & Enterprise Massachusetts risks losing its competitive edge if it doesn’t expands into online lottery sales.
“Our cities and town rely on this money; it’s a huge piece of municipal aid. Anything New Hampshire does certainly affects our area more than others because of our proximity to the border.”
Michael Kushmerek (Democrat)
Fitchburg City Councilor Michael Kushmerek also supports online lottery, but with reservations.
Echoing the talking points of online lottery opponents, Kushmerek said he’s concerned about cannibalization of terrestrial lottery locations, as well as the harms to problem and underage gambling. Neither of these have proven to be an issue in other locales with legal online lotteries.
“Bringing lottery online could expose more young people to potentially addictive forms of gambling. You have to be careful to have safeguards in place to provide both intervention services and education, particularly to younger individuals before they come of gambling age.”
Michael Mahan (Democrat)
Leominster Planning Board member and trustee of both Fitchburg State University and HealthAlliance Hospital, Michael Mahan seems to fall somewhere in between Freda and Kushmerek.
Mahan told the Sentinel & Enterprise, if “we do this right the whole system can work well.”
Mahan went on to say that the state needs to be realistic and see the writing on the wall. While he expressed some concerns about lottery retailers, he still sees the direction the world is heading.
“We need to be realistic in the fact that we know this is going to head online — all commerce is moving online.”
Dean Tran (Republican)
Fitchburg City Councilor Dean Tran views online lottery as a means to drive economic growth, but like the other candidates, stopped short of giving online lottery a full emdorsement.
Instead, Tran called for careful study to make sure expansion wouldn’t “adversely impact mom and pop stores and brick-and-mortar retailers, which are a key foundation to economic growth in our district.”
Careful study is typically a legislative euphemism for an issue the person would rather not vote on.
Sue Chalifoux Zephir (Democrat)
City Councilor-At-Large in Leominster, Sue Chalifoux Zephir was the only candidate who sounded negative about online lottery.
Chalifoux Zephir isn’t buying the younger demographic argument, telling the Sentinel & Enterprise the millennials she knows don’t have extra money to spend on lottery tickets.
“I’m not sure if they had discretionary income they would spend it on lottery,” she said. An odd statement considering Millennials have a lot of spending power, as much or more than any demographic.
Nor does Chalifoux Zephir believe there is a pressing need for action.
“It’s my understanding that our state Lottery has produced record amounts of cash for the state.”
Flanagan’s shoes will be difficult to fill
Flanagan was one of the driving forces behind online lottery efforts in Massachusetts in recent years. Her 2016 bill authorizing the Massachusetts Lottery to sell products online passed the Senate in June before ultimately falling short in the House.
Flanagan reintroduced online lottery legislation in 2017, but the bill never moved out of committee. Not surprising, considering Massachusetts was Jekyll and Hyde on online lottery and online gambling throughout the year.
Judging by their comments, some of the candidates might support online lottery it if the matter gains legislative momentum, but don’t expect them to be proactive or spearhead any efforts like Flanagan did.
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