Time Right For Massachusetts to Launch Online Gambling DriveMay 21, 2018 10:53 am
Massachusetts is not a place frequently mentioned when industry analysts consider the next likely US state to adopt online legislation. In fact, there have been no significant movements on the issue since the start of the year when State Senator Eileen Donoghue (D-First Middlesex District) introduced “an act to regulate online gaming, daily fantasy sports, and online sports betting” called SD.2480.
Like many other jurisdictions across the country, however, the US Supreme Court’s decision to permit sports betting brings hope of renewed efforts to legalize online gambling, with several good reasons why now may be the right time for lawmakers to step up their efforts and move quickly on the issue. As State Senator Donoghue noted back in January when SD.2480 was first introduced:
“The general feeling is that if suddenly sports betting, which is an enormous illegal industry right now, were to be given a green light that things could happen very rapidly.”
In 2016, a committee was formed tasked with exploring the possibility of legalizing a range of online gambling games in Massachusetts. Eileen Donoghue was one of the legislators involved in the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports, and while her initial recommendation was to just regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) and place other forms of online gambling on hold, on January 17th she introduced SD.2480 which not only included DFS but also sports betting, online poker and casino games.
Furthermore, Donoghue worked closely with Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby when preparing the bill, indicating that she likely has the commission’s support for her piece of legislation.
DFS and Sports Betting
Earlier this year, Senator Donoghue described legalized sports betting as a game changer as far as advancing online gambling in Massachusetts is concerned. Already the Bay State has daily fantasy sports legislation in place, with the jurisdiction one of the first in the country to provide legal clarity on the industry. Despite a comprehensive white paper being produced studying DFS and its potential benefits, however, the legislature has thus far failed to fully legalize the game. It therefore seems just a matter of time before lawmakers finally gets around to officially legalizing DFS in Massachusetts.
In the meantime, the state’s three casinos have all expressed an interest in also offering sports wagering at their establishments, and if they are prepared to spend money developing the technology and setting up online gaming platforms in this regard, then it would also seem to make economic sense for them to further include online poker and casino games in their product range.
DraftKings HQ in Boston
Another factor pointing towards Massachusetts being motivated towards adopting DFS legislation in the near future is the fact that one of the world’s biggest DFS operators, DraftKings, was founded in Boston in 2012. Currently, DraftKings’s headquarters in the Financial District of downtown Boston employs around 250 people, which is expected to rise to around 700 employees by the summer of next year. As the DFS industry stateside grows, DraftKings potential to create more jobs, positively impact the state’s economy and generally influence lawmakers will therefore continue to rise exponentially.
Finally, legalized online sports betting and casino gambling could help the state protect its nascent casino industry from fierce competition coming from neighboring states such as New York.
Massachusetts only passed a law allowing three commercial casinos to be located in the state in 2011, with Plainridge Park Casino opening its doors for business in 2015, and two more casino resorts, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, expected to be completed in August 2018 and 2019 respectively. Allowing Massachusetts casinos to offer the full range of gambling options to their customers could therefore make the venues more attractive a draw for tourists and visitors alike, whilst diminishing the power of neighboring states such as New York to lure away the state’s potential customers.