A lot of positive news was made at the most recent meeting of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports.
The commission met last week to continue its ongoing discussions on how best to regulate online gambling and daily fantasy sports. The commission will next meet on March 28.
One of the panelists, Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, spoke at the meeting.
Crosby reiterated his belief that the best path forward for the state is to take an omnibus approach to legalizing and regulating all forms of online gaming.
Crosby believes this legal clarity would spark investment in Massachusetts and attract new companies to the state.
Crosby told his fellow panelists:
“If you have a stable legal environment, where the law was clear and the parameters were clear and the rules of the road were clear, people would come here to develop new games. It could become another modest but real economic engine.”
Representatives for all three of the licensed casino operators in the state, Penn National, MGM, and Wynn, were also on hand.
The licensees made comments signaling support of, or at least openness to, the idea of online gambling legalization in Massachusetts, provided it only be offered through licensed casinos.
According to the Massachusetts State House News Service (paywall), Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public affairs for Penn National, told the panel:
“We at Penn National firmly believe that iGaming could provide an incremental benefit both to our company and to the commonwealth … and could help us compete against neighboring jurisdictions.”
Seth Stratton, the vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield, was also in favor of legalization. He noted that MGM is already operating successful online gaming sites in New Jersey (through Borgata) and Nevada (here Stratton was likely referring to the casino’s sports betting app).
As expected, Wynn was a bit more reserved when it came to the topic of online gambling.
Jacqui Krum, the senior vice president and general counsel for Wynn Resorts Development, said:
“We will continue to follow the development and implementation of online gaming to determine whether it adapts to the point at which we can participate.”
“However, we believe that if online gaming is permitted it should be limited to licensees.”
These comments are far from newsworthy coming from Penn National or MGM, but Krum’s remarks represent a potentially significant shift from Wynn Resorts regarding online gambling policy; a shift we first noticed last week when the company installed online gaming industry veteran Craig Billings as its new CFO.
Steve Wynn’s, and by extension Wynn Resorts’, stance towards online gaming has been hard to quantify in recent years. But one thing was certain: Wynn was not interested in getting into the online gambling business.
However, the company wasn’t expressly opposed to legalization efforts going on around the country.
In 2013, the company filed the necessary paperwork in New Jersey to participate in the state’s nascent online gaming industry.
In 2014, Wynn was approved for an online gaming license in New Jersey.
But within days, Steve Wynn said the company was no longer interested in online gambling, citing a lack of possible revenue from the enterprise, as well as some granular concerns of a “black eye” to the larger industry should a scandal occur.
On Tuesday, Krum told the panel that Wynn is still uninterested in online gambling, because it doesn’t allow for the “five-star” face-to-face experience between customers and employees the company covets.
“Face-to-face guest contact allows us to create a five-star guest experience,” Krum said at the meeting. “To date we can’t see a way to create this five-star experience online without our employees.”
But, Krum also said the company would be open to jumping into real-money online gambling should a method to “create a five-star experience” online present itself.
And more importantly, Wynn more or less said it would not stand in the way of Massachusetts should the state decide to move forward with legalizing online gambling.
One more notable development was the now-public position of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
Marlene Warner, executive director of the MCCG, told the panel the Council favors the omnibus approach MGC Chairman Stephen Crosby has been advocating.
According to Warner, a comprehensive approach “would allow lawmakers and advocates to more easily keep track of the industry guidelines.”