Massachusetts to Consider Online Gambling

Massachusetts to Consider Online GamblingThree casinos and a slots parlor will be given licenses for land-based gaming in Massachusetts this year and lawmakers may consider online gambling as well.

Those gaming establishments are not scheduled to open until 2016, but the virtual doors could possibly swing open sooner if Bay State lawmakers manage to approve Internet gambling. Proposals to enact online gaming in recent years have landed in the muck, the latest being last year when an Internet betting amendment was scalped from a 2014 Budget Proposal when it was deemed to be unconstitutional.

The need for revenue in these uncertain economic times has legislatures in many states considering online gambling regulation as a way to boost state coffers. Massachusetts is one of those states on a list of about 10 that will likely entertain the possibility of trying to squeeze tax dollars from Internet gamblers.

Being discussed in the Bay State are state-regulated online poker and blackjack rooms, as well as Internet lottery sales. What concerns some state officials is that those modes of online gambling expansion may serve to reduce attendance at the brick and mortar casinos that haven’t even opened yet.

The director of the Northeastern Gaming Research Project at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, Clyde W. Barrow, recently conducted a study that showed that a good portion of Massachusetts residents enjoy gambling. Some 58% gambled legally over the last year, with 20% making a visit to a casino out-of-state.

In fact, the New England Gaming Behavior Survey under Barrow’s direction at the UMass Center for Policy Analysis discovered that the Twin River Casino and Newport Grand in Rhode Island as well as Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino were quite popular destinations for those who call Massachusetts home. Gambling expansion and [geolink href=””]online poker in Massachusetts[/geolink] would likely keep many of those gamblers from crossing state lines, allowing tax revenue to remain in-state.

Barrow’s analysis led him to say that the proposed online poker and blackjack rooms would not compete with live casino gaming at the three casinos and one slots parlor that are two years away from opening. Online gambling typically targets and attracts a different audience than brick and mortar casinos and may even serve to induce the normally younger Internet gambling crowd to visit land-based casinos, Barrow said.

Massachusetts lawmakers have debated online gambling proposals for the last three years to no avail. Whether 2014 is finally the year that a bill is pushed through remains to be seen. However, as long as legislators keep knocking on that door, one of these days that door will be opened and Internet gambling will be approved.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett