[toc]Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg didn’t mince words on Tuesday, when she said the Massachusetts Lottery is “sitting here like dead ducks,” as New Hampshire prepares to roll out keno and online lottery games in early 2018.
Massachusetts should be very concerned, considering six of the top 10 keno retailers in Massachusetts are within 10 miles of the New Hampshire border, according to Colin Young of Statehouse News.
Goldberg has been a vocal advocate of online lottery in the Bay State. She recently noted the need to modernize the lottery. Goldberg wants to bring in new players capable of replacing the ever-aging existing lottery demographic.
Goldberg’s advocacy went so far as to propose legislation earlier this year.
“Between the impending arrival of casinos, increasing competition from daily fantasy sports, the overall shift to online versus point-of-sale transactions, and our aging Lottery demographic, we have no choice but to pursue new solutions,” Goldberg said in December 2016.
Beaten to the punch by New Hampshire
Despite Goldberg’s cheerleading, online lottery efforts in Massachusetts regressed in 2017.
The Senate passed a bill that would have authorized online lottery sales near the end of the 2016 session. However, it eventually died in the House of Representatives. Its progress left supporters feeling optimistic that similar legislation would pass in 2017.
That never came to pass.
Instead, Massachusetts watched its northern neighbor sprint past the finish line ahead of the Bay State.
In July, New Hampshire legalized online lottery and keno sales. The expectation is the NH Lottery will eat away at Massachusetts’ lottery revenue, causing a “double-hit” according to Goldberg.
As Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the Lottery Commission on Tuesday:
“We’re facing a lot of different types of pressure as a lottery and New Hampshire being more aggressive and receiving more empowerment from their state legislature will have an impact on us, and clearly a negative impact as revenue goes.”
Will Massachusetts act in 2018?
On the lottery front, 2017 was a wasted year in Massachusetts.
The state now finds itself playing catch-up instead of being the first New England state to offer online lottery sales. Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, and Kentucky already authorized and offer online lottery to their residents.
The hope is the legislature will get the message and act quickly in 2018.
State Comptroller Thomas Shack summed up the situation:
“I don’t know how much clearer a message we need to send the Legislature relative to this issue. It’s become one of those things that we’ve said it ad nauseum at this point and now we’re starting to see, literally, the troops on the borders of Massachusetts. This has a potential devastating effect on the Lottery, and it’s going to be profound, and cities and towns are going to be the ultimate recipients of that downturn. I hope the Legislature is listening.”
On a related note, the Massachusetts legislature should also consider these arguments as they waffle on MA online gambling. Instead of waiting for a neighboring state to legalize online poker and/or casino games, Massachusetts, and its burgeoning casino industry, would be better served being a first-mover in the region.
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