The bill-filing period for the Massachusetts 2013-2014 legislative session has concluded and eight bills were filed that are related to gambling in some respect. This is not surprising, given that An Act Establishing Expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth (the “Expanded Gaming Bill”) just passed during the last legislative session, opening up opportunities for those in the gaming field by authorizing the establishment of up to three land-based resort casinos and one slot parlor in Massachusetts. Since the passage of this bill, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was established and is convening weekly, and Treasurer Steven Grossman established the Online Products Task Force (the “Task Force”), which published a policy report on December 10, 2012 emphasizing the importance and inevitability of online gaming products in Massachusetts. These developments in Massachusetts, along with recent developments in other states such as Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, have only increased the anticipation with which gaming enthusiasts have awaited the new legislative session.
Of the eight gaming and gambling-related bills filed, An Act Relative to Lottery Online Products (S101), filed by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster), has garnered the most attention. This bill would permit, for the first time, the Massachusetts State Lottery to sell lottery tickets online. Senator Flanagan was one of four legislators named to the Task Force, which specifically considered whether Massachusetts should permit the online sale of lottery tickets. Possibly in anticipation of concerns about age and location verification in online transactions, Senator Flanagan’s bill calls for the State Lottery Commission to implement regulations that would prevent lottery ticket sales to individuals under the age of 18and block transactions initiated outside of Massachusetts. The bill also authorizes the State Lottery Commission to enter into agreements with other states to create multi-jurisdictional online lotteries.
Also related to Internet gaming and gambling, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) filed An Act Relative To Gaming (S197), which would authorize the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue gaming licenses to conduct gaming operations via the Internet, provided that such gaming operations do not include or reflect gaming mechanisms operated by the State Lottery program of those simulating or resembling slot machines.
The remaining six bills touch on a variety of topics related to gaming and gambling in Massachusetts, including the following:
- Requiring the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue a request no later than March 31, 2013 for applications for a category 1, or resort casino, license in the southeast region of Massachusetts. (H320)
- In the absence of a compact between the Governor of Massachusetts and an Indian tribe being finalized and approved, and the Indian tribe’s land taken into trust by the US Department of the Interior, requiring the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to complete a prequalification process for applicants for a category 1 license in the southeast region of Massachusetts in sufficient time in order to issue a request for applications to prequalified applicants for a category 1 license in such region not later than when the Commission issues a request for applications to prequalified applicants for category 1 licenses in the other two regions of Massachusetts. The Commission will also be required to render final determination on applications from prequalified applicants for category 1 licenses in the southeast region no later than it renders its final determinations on applications from prequalified applicants for category 1 licenses in the other two regions. (H310)
- Certain processes and requirements for approving casino establishments by host city-towns. (S166)
- Certain taxpayer protections regarding tax rates that may be applicable to licensed gaming operations. (H2504).
- Establishment of a Massachusetts Gaming Control Authority which would ultimately have oversight and control over the Massachusetts State Lottery. (S148)
- Repeal of the Expanded Gaming Bill. (S167)
It certainly seems like it will be an exciting legislative session in Massachusetts as we monitor whether any of these bills get traction and advance through committee. In particular, those in the online gaming industry should watch for movement on S101 and S197, as they could set the stage for the introduction of online lottery and other online gambling operations in the Commonwealth.