[toc]Massachusetts might authorize a smorgasbord of online gaming in 2018. That is, if the Massachusetts legislature heeds the advice of the Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports assembled last year.
The Commission is scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning in order to discuss the draft language of its final report. According to Statehouse News Service (paywall), the Commission could very well vote on the report during the meeting.
The Commission has until July 31 to submit its finding to the legislature. This then gives the legislature a full year to hash out a bill before the daily fantasy sports (DFS) regulations passed in 2016 sunset. The current regulations are set to expire on July 21, 2018.
Commission likely to recommend a comprehensive approach
By all accounts, the Commission is going to recommend a comprehensive regulatory approach towards online gambling.
That would include:
- Installing permanent DFS regulations
- Authorizing online casino and poker games run through the state’s casinos
- Giving the Massachusetts Gaming Commission the ability to deal with new, non-traditional online gaming products on a case-by-case basis
Does lottery need to go online first?
However, the legislature is likely going to have to deal with online lottery before it turns its attention to online gaming and DFS. The Commission purposefully left online lottery off the agenda.
As Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said last month:
“The reality is that if anybody is going to get any kind of online capacity, it needs to be the Lottery before any kind of other gambling would be online. We don’t think that casinos and those folks should be online and then keep us out. We really need to be owning our marketplace in Massachusetts and interacting with people who are our customers.”
Can Massachusetts get it done in 2018?
Even by state legislature standards, Massachusetts tends to move very slowly. This is particularly true when it comes to an issue like gambling.
That being said, the need to craft DFS regulations prior to the July 2018 deadline, and developments in other states may help push Massachusetts across the finish line sooner rather than later.
Pennsylvania is exploring a similar omnibus online approach. It already has a bill in the hopper that would legalize and regulate online gambling and DFS. The bill would also authorize the state to take its lottery online. Some version of the bill is expected to pass this year.
Even closer to home, the New Hampshire legislature recently authorized online lottery and Keno sales. New Hampshire’s actions will almost certainly accelerate progress in neighboring Massachusetts. After all, many Granite State residents routinely went to bars and restaurants across the border to play keno.