The Massachusetts state treasurer has a simple message for lawmakers: If you legalize online sports betting, you better be prepared to authorize the Massachusetts Lottery to sell products online.
“If sports betting is available online, the Lottery must be available online also,” Deborah Goldberg told State House News Service following a Tuesday meeting of the Lottery Commission. “That’s the issue moving forward.”
Massachusetts nearly legalized online lottery sales in 2016, but a Senate proposal ultimately died in the House. Many expected the legislature to revisit the issue, but it received only a cursory look over the last two years.
With sports betting now driving the conversation, however, a Massachusetts iLottery could be back on the table in 2019.
As online poker and casinos have entered the discussion in recent years, Goldberg has argued that any such expansion must include the state lottery. The agency, she says, can’t sustain its current success without modernization — something neighboring New Hampshire has already done.
“The world has changed with fantasy sports, sports betting, casinos and online lottery in neighboring states,” Goldberg said last week. “We do not want to go the way of Sears or Toys R Us.”
Speaking to local press in 2017, the treasurer contended that any online gaming expansion which excluded the lottery would cannibalize state revenue.
“It’s interesting. You’re hearing about the Gaming Commission saying they want online gambling, and then the comment that I read in the paper was that there are only so many entertainment dollars. So literally … if they get online gambling and we do not get iLottery, they would be trying to capture our money that goes to cities and towns for the profit of a profitable entity, like Wynn or MGM.”
The Massachusetts Lottery currently brings in about $1 billion in annual revenue.
Goldberg’s comments — and her steadfast belief that lottery revenues need to be protected — foreshadow some of the potential hiccups that face sports betting legislation in Massachusetts.
Lawmakers are in for a contentious fight if they decide to tackle sports betting without considering the online lottery. And that type of omnibus approach could also rekindle interest in online casino and online poker.
Meanwhile, last week’s revised Wire Act opinion casts some doubt for the future of all forms of internet gaming, including the online lottery.