Lawmakers in Massachusetts have introduced a proposal calling for online poker to be legalized in the Bay State.
The measure is an amendment to the state’s budget plan that calls for allowing three online poker sites, referred to in the proposal as “Internet card rooms.” Each website operator would be required to pay a licensing fee of $10 million within 30 days of issuance of the gaming license. Revenue generated and owed to the state would be not be paid during the first two years of operating the Internet card rooms until the $10 million amount is reached. The proposal does not specifically state the tax rate to be assessed on online gaming operators.
A ‘bad actor’ clause is included in the amendment that prohibits a license being awarded to any company that serviced the U.S. market after the UIGEA was enacted on October 13, 2006. Most other states that have included or are considering bad actor provisions are using December 31, 2006 as the cutoff date.
Massachusetts currently has no commercial casinos, but did pass legislation in November of 2011 approving three brick and mortar casinos in the state. Lawmakers then conducted a feasability study to determine if a trio of land-based casinos would oversaturate the area. The casinos are not expected to be accepting wagers from live customers prior to 2016. However, it is conceivable that the Internet card rooms could be up and running before the land-based operations, as winning bidders for licensing will be determined next year.
Amendment #365 to H. 3400 points out that a significant percentage of Massachusetts residents are likely to be currently patronizing unregulated gambling websites and that legalization would protect such players. In addition, the proposal seeks to create a number of high-salaried job opportunities, provide various programs for those with gambling problems, and generate revenue in the millions of dollars for state coffers.
The measure does not include other modes of online gambling and is specifically subtitled “Internet Poker Licenses.” While the language of the bill reads as though the amendment is designed to permit intrastate online poker, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission could allow for interstate formats to be brokered if it deems it to be beneficial.
Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are expected to be up and running with online poker and gambling websites this year. The enactment of legislation in those three states is expected to create a domino effect in which other states will be joining the action in coming years. Massachusetts may be one of those states entering the mix in 2014.