Massachusetts may have just officially closed the door on online gambling expansion in 2014. The Massachusetts Senate is currently deliberating the state budget and chose to reject State Senator Michael F. Rush’s budgetary amendment that would have allowed the state lottery to expand into certain forms of online gambling.
According to the text of the Amendment, Rush’s Local Aid Lottery Expansion would allow for the following:
“The lottery commission is hereby authorized and directed to implement online games of skill, including, but not limited to, fantasy sports, so-called, poker, so-called, and other games of skill, subject to the provisions of, and preempted and superseded by, any applicable federal law. “
With the Senate rejecting the amendment the razor-thin sliver of hope some advocates were holding on to that Massachusetts would join Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey as an online gaming state was for all intents and purposes snuffed out for 2014.
Massachusetts appears to be AT LEAST a year away
Massachusetts has been a bit of an online poker tease throughout the year.
The state has several advocates for iGaming expansion, including a very vocal champion in State Treasurer Steve Grossman (who is also a gubernatorial candidate) but there are just as many opponents, including Grossman’s chief rival for the democratic nominee for governor, Martha Coakley who is using online gaming as a wedge issue.
The Rush amendment was far from the first bill that has been introduced over the course of 2013/2014. Other efforts to legalize online gambling have included several different bills calling for everything from full legalization to experimentation by the state lottery, and even a similar attempt at attaching an amendment to the 2014 budget back in 2013.
None of the bills have gained any traction in the legislature.
Things were looking up earlier this year though.
In March the state gaming commission held a very productive and comprehensive online gaming hearing/forum that left all observers with a heightened level of optimism for Massachusetts iGaming in 2014. However, soon after the hearing almost every voice speaking on the subject was pulling back the reins and calling for caution.
The latest attempt by Senator Rush via a Budget Amendment (#83 to the Senate budget) was a long shot from the get go as it would not only have to pass muster in the State Senate but also in the house, and survive through the compromised budget produced by the Senate and the house.
Several key players in Massachusetts have already stated their intent to take a cautious, wait and see approach to online gambling, citing the desire to get the state’s brick & mortar casino industry up and running before turning their eye towards online gaming.
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