Misinformation in Massachusetts Gives False Hope to Online Poker Expansion

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On Tuesday I stumbled across a radio interview with author Ben Mezrich from WBUR in Boston that purported online poker was a distinct possibility in Massachusetts this year, which would be news to everyone in the iGaming industry.

In the intro to the segment the hosts caught me off guard, stating that 18 legislators had signed off on an online poker amendment to the Massachusetts budget, which is something I had not heard of or was even aware was being talked about.

The entire interview followed suit, with Mezrich making the case for legalized online poker –and pitching his book which just came out in paperback by the way– occasionally touching upon this completely unknown amendment to anyone but Ben Mezrich and the hosts apparently.

Unknown, yes, but the idea was not completely out of left field, as a I recalled a similar proposal was attempted last year; actually a very similar attempt… An eerily similar attempt… an identical attempt…

After a little digging it turns out the show/Mezrich was in fact using information from last year’s budget, and after listening to the entire interview it seems Mezrich is the source of the confusion as his interview and the hosts comments about the potential amendment closely resembles an op-ed he penned that appeared in the Boston Globe a few days later (which I’ll touch on below).

So how on earth did this happen?

Mezrich most likely got his information off this website, which doesn’t use time stamps –opening the door for confusion– and is one of the top search results for “Massachusetts online poker bill” on Google: Massachusetts may be opening the door to online poker

Furthermore, the addendum from the MA legislature is also undated: Amendment 365 to H 3400

Mezrich will print pretty much anything you tell him

Unfortunately, as he did for much of the content in Straight Flush, which details the rise and fall of the scandal-plagued online poker site Absolute Poker, Mezrich took this information at face value, penning his op-ed for the Boston Globe in favor of the nonexistent online poker amendment –you know, the online poker amendment that didn’t make it into last year’s budget and is not a part of this year’s budget.

Mezrich’s op-ed in the Boston Globe went so far as to link to the failed amendment from last year, Amendment #365 to H.3400.

And then the hyperbole began, as Mezrich’s anathema to fact-checking actually has him stating:

“If the push to grant Internet licenses, sponsored by 18 state representatives, passes, online poker could be up and running again in Massachusetts as early as next year. ”

This is not only false in that there is no such amendment, but it’s also an impossible timeline, as it took New Jersey, with their 40-year casino industry and regulatory body nine months from the date of their bill’s passage to the launch online gambling sites –Massachusetts would take far longer.

Editorial fact-checking

Another aspect of this story that is somewhat troubling is the Boston Globe lack of diligence concerning Mezrich’s claims, which is the second time a major media outlet has dropped the ball or been duped concerning online poker recently.

You may recall the Press of Atlantic City was forced to withdraw an op-ed that was submitted to them after Dewey Tomko claimed he did not write or authorize the column –For those of you that aren’t aware of “DeweyGate” you can read about it here: The Curious Case of Dewey Tomko and the Disappearing Op-ed

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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