The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be awarding casino licenses this year, which has renewed talk that gambling expansion may include the Internet.
Licenses for a slots parlor and three casinos will be doled out by gaming regulators in 2014, with the doors to those Bay State gaming establishments scheduled to open two years later. There are some state officials who would like to see online gambling legislation also addressed.
Gambling and poker bills introduced in Massachusetts in previous years failed to gain any traction. That included an online wagering amendment that was tacked onto the proposed budget for 2014 last year. However, the amendment was unceremoniously removed from the 2014 Budget Proposal on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will again look at igaming bills during this session that would permit lottery tickets to be sold over the Internet and the possibility of opening blackjack and online poker rooms that would be state-regulated, GoLocalWorcester.com reported. While some believe that online gambling would take away business from the as yet unopened casinos, others believe that the online gaming parlors attract a completely different segment of the population than the live casinos.
Clyde W. Barrow, who heads the Northeastern Gaming Research Project of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said that regulated online gambling would not compete with the action on the live casino floor. He went so far as to say that the Internet poker and blackjack rooms being proposed may act as “minor leagues” for gamblers who may then take the knowledge gleaned from the online games to the live casinos.
A New England Gaming Behavior Survey conducted last year by Barrow’s team at the Center found that Massachusetts residents were flocking to the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut as well as the Twin River Casino and Newport Grand in Rhode Island. The study showed that one out of five Bay State residents had visited an out-of-state casino in the last year and 58% admitted to legally gambling in some fashion during the same time frame.
Those statistics bode well for the new casino market in Massachusetts in 2016. Whether or not regulated online poker and gambling will also be a part of that market remains at the hands of lawmakers. It certainly is a good sign that the legislature continues to look at the possibility of Internet gambling expansion year after year. Online poker players in Massachusetts are hoping that their elected officials continue trying until a bill is finally approved.