Massachusetts iGaming Effort to Carry On

Posted on May 28th, 2014 by Robert DellaFave

Massachusetts iGaming Effort to Carry OnDespite losing the support of the American Gaming Association (AGA), Massachusetts plans to continue moving forward with its Internet gambling study.

Last week, proponents of Internet gambling suffered a mighty blow when former advocate the American Gaming Association (AGA) withdrew its support for the cause. Yet despite the loss of one of the nation’s most influential casino lobbyists, Massachusetts plans to forge ahead with its iGaming study.

According to AGA CEO Geoff Freeman, the reasoning behind the organization’s sudden parting was simple: not all of its members are in full agreement over the viability and long-term benefit of online gambling. Rather than offer its support towards a platform its leaders cannot agree on, it proved in the best interest of the organization to withdraw backing, effective immediately.

It was believed that the AGA’s absence would create a significant void in the fight against Sheldon Adelson and his anti-iGaming supporters, one that even the Poker Players Alliance and its leader John Pappas wouldn’t necessarily be able to fill. As a result, speculation began arising that states currently examining the iGaming conundrum would shelf the issue until at least the next legislative session.

But reason for optimism has arisen, as the Boston Herald reported that Massachusetts – widely considered to be one of the 10 U.S. states most likely to pass an iGaming bill – remains unaffected by the AGA’s decision, and will carry on its online gambling study in much the same fashion that it has prior.

Massachusetts newly optimistic stance stands in staunch contrast to what many would have expected, as only last month Bluff Magazine reported that the Bay State would be abandoning its iGaming plans until at least 2015. During April’s USA Online Gambling Forum at the Borgata, James McHugh affirmed that Massachusetts lawmakers were still taking the issue seriously, but would not be moving forward on the issue this year. Compare this to McHugh’s remarks at a similar conference a month prior, when he seemed largely in-favor of pushing the iGaming envelop.

Although the state’s seemingly wishy-washy iGaming position is borderline confounding, it appears that at least for now, its efforts to study the merits and detriments of iGaming legislature will remain concerted – even if they’re to take place at a slower, more calculated pace.

When asked about the AGA’s decision, State Treasurer and governor candidate Steven Grossman nearly chuckled it off, stating: They can have their squabbles out there all they want. We’ll continue to move forward.

There are currently two iGaming bills on the table in Massachusetts, the more attractive of which would permit the state’s Lottery to conduct online operations. Should Mass. pursue this route it could mark the second time a state launched its iGaming market through the state lottery, with Delaware becoming the first last Fall.

However, in order for that to happen, state parties would first have to resolve several concerns, the biggest of which is determining how large of a negative impact, if any, an iGaming industry would have on Lottery sales. Other issues are the Lottery’s opposition towards credit card deposits, and the current windfall afflicting New Jersey – where iGaming revenues have begun to slump. There is little indication that the Garden State’s online gambling industry will rebound this summer.

But for now, it appears that at least the departure of major proponents of iGaming will not have a decisive effect on Massachusetts efforts one way or the other.

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