Boston Globe Anti-Gambling Article Wrong yet Relevant

Don´t Gamble Massachusetts´ Future OnlineAn anti-gambling op-ed in the Boston Globe indicates of the ignorance lawmakers will have to overcome before regulating online gambling in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is one of a number of states considering proposals to regulate online gambling in the United States. Like many other states on the cusp of regulation, the conversation in the Bay State has been going on for [geolink href=””]years[/geolink] and [geolink href=””]years[/geolink] and [geolink href=””]years[/geolink] without anything happening.

At present, a special commission is in the process of compiling a report to present to the legislature by the end of July. It is anticipated the commission will recommend the regulation of online gambling in Massachusetts for its “modest” revenue benefits. This does not necessarily mean regulation will follow.

In 2011, the state passed the Expanded Gambling Act allowing for three brick and mortar casinos and one racino. As yet, the three brick-and-mortar casinos are yet to open, and the racino is regarded to be under-performing in relation to the financial projections presented to legislators.

The likely short-term outcome is that legislators will refrain from regulating online gambling until the impact of the brick-and-mortar casinos is known. Before then, lawmakers will have to overcome the concerns of the Lottery Commission and the general ignorance surrounding online gambling.

The Concerns of the Lottery Commission

The Massachusetts lottery is one of the most successful in the country and, in 2016, contributed $989 million to the state´s revenues. Its Comptroller – Thomas Shack – believes the lottery needs to go online in order to maintain its success, and last year his wishes almost came true. The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill to allow online lottery ticket sales, but it was never taken up by the House.

Shack is concerned that the special commission has not included the lottery – or the impact online gambling may have on ticket sales – in its considerations. He argues that the failure to consider the consequences of online gambling on ticket sales is “kneecapping” the lottery and may divert the lottery´s revenues into the hands of private enterprises. Shack told the press last week:

To take those revenues away from cities and towns and to then share them in a significant way with private industry just goes against what we’re designed to do as a commonwealth and as a lottery.

Concerns about cannibalization are not new in online gambling discussions. Those both for and against the regulation of online gambling can produce figures to support their arguments. However, those opposed to the regulation of online gambling in Massachusetts seem to ignore the fact that online gambling happens whether or not it is regulated – a fact conveniently ignored in an op-ed published last weekend in the Boston Globe.

Boston Globe Article Way Off the Mark

The anonymously-written “Don´t Gamble Massachusetts´ Future Online” repeated the concerns of the Lottery Commission and supported its anti-online gambling stance with a quote from the national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling organization – Les Bernal. Bernal effectively accused legislators of attempting to get a new generation of youngsters hooked on gambling.

Although the article was incorrect in its assumptions and lacked any credibility, what is relevant about it is that it appeared in a publication with a readership of about a quarter million people (print and digital) and generated a significant number of comments. Many of the commenters were opposed to the regulation of online gambling in Massachusetts – one likening it to putting heroin in gumball machines.

Politicians closely follow comments on articles such as this to gauge public opinion on potentially contentious issues. Those unaware of the inaccuracies published in the Boston Globe may take some convincing the regulation of online gambling in Massachusetts would be a positive step if the measure is recommended by the special commission in July. With anti-regulation concerns also being raised by the Lottery Commission, it could be many years yet before online gambling in Massachusetts becomes a reality.

Footnote: Unfortunately this degree of ignorance is not a problem unique to Massachusetts. Other states considering the regulation of online gambling also choose to ignore that online gambling in the United States is alive and well. This is not only a fact conveniently ignored by lawmakers to help further their political careers, by also by newspapers such as the Boston Globe – who have a responsibility to provide facts upon which its readership can develop informed opinions.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett