MA Online Gambling Legalization May Not Come Anytime Soon

Massachusetts Study Panel Meets To Explore Regulatory Paths For DFS, Online Gambling

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On Monday, the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports met for the first time.

The existence of the panel is a result of a daily fantasy sports bill the legislature passed in August. The bill legalized daily fantasy sports in Massachusetts, using the regulations crafted by Attorney General Maura Healey in March as a temporary solution until permanent regulations can be adopted.

It also included the creation of the special commission, which is tasked with recommending these permanent regulations to the legislature. In addition to DFS, the commission is entrusted with presenting suggestions on the broader issue of online gambling, and whether the two can be married.

The commission must present its findings and recommendations to the legislature on or before July 31, 2017. According to State Senator Eileen Donoghue, one of two chairs of the panel, it will reconvene every four to six weeks until the job is completed.

The panel’s tasks

The issues, as they pertain to Massachusetts online gambling, fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports, which the panel will make recommendations include:

  • consumer protections
  • economic development
  • taxation
  • legal and regulatory structures
  • implications for existing forms of gaming

DFS and online gambling: two peas, but are they in the same pod?

The top priority will likely revolve around crafting permanent DFS regulations. With the passage of the bill in August, DFS is already legal, and simply needs a bit more clarity and permanency.

“We codified statutorily the standing of daily fantasy sports operations as legal entities but with a sunset provision,” said Wagner during the meeting. “It’s the hope that the work of this commission and whatever product, and perhaps legislative product, may come from it will provide guidance going forward.” The temporary regulations are set to expire on July 31, 2018.

The panel will likely use the regulations created by the attorney general as a foundation and make only minor tweaks. Healey’s regulations were seen as both robust and fair by people on both sides of the DFS issue.

On the other hand, it’s unclear if the legislature has an appetite for online gambling, or if the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s hopes of putting all of these games into a single basket will come to fruition.

Chairman Crosby feels the overlap between online gambling and daily fantasy sports presents an opportunity to deal with both issues at the same time, but the panel’s online gambling recommendations will likely be met with far more scrutiny and skepticism by the legislature.

Massachusetts is one of a handful of states giving serious consideration to legalizing online gambling, but it may fall into the “we’ll look at this down the road” category, considering the state already has so much already on its plate when it comes to gaming.

In addition to DFS legalization, Massachusetts is:

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A look at the panel

Heading into Monday, several members of the panel had yet to be named. The appointees of Governor Charlie Baker — Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and House Speaker Robert DeLeo — were only revealed during the roll call at the start of the meeting.

The panel is chaired by Donoghue and Rep. Joseph Wagner. This pair also chairs the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

In addition to the two co-chairs, the panel is composed of:

  • Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby (appointed by the Gaming Commission)
  • Senator Jennifer Flanagan (appointed by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg)
  • Representative James Kelcourse (appointed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones)
  • Assistant Attorney General Dan Krockmalnic (appointed by Attorney General Maura Healey)
  • Fantasy Sports Trade Association Chairman Peter Schoenke (appointed by Governor Charlie Baker)
  • Representative Mark Cusack (appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo)
  • Legal Counsel to Senator Bruce Tarr, Hirak Shah (appointed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr)

Schoenke, whose group has actively lobbied for favorable DFS regulations in other states, is the only surprising appointee.

- 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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