Pros, cons of online gaming weighed by Mass. panelAP , Associated Press
Mar. 11, 2014 3:15 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — The head of the state's gambling commission suggested on Tuesday that lawmakers hold off on key decisions about Internet gambling until after the panel completes the process of awarding casino licenses in Massachusetts.
The commission convened an all-day hearing to examine the potential impact of online gambling should it be legalized in the state. Lawmakers and gambling regulators worry that it could take a bite out of revenues currently produced by the state lottery and that are expected to be generated by taxes on casinos in the future.
Commissioners awarded the state's first expanded gambling license last month to Penn National Gaming, which plans to build a slots parlor at the Plainridge racetrack in Plainville. Licensees for resort casinos in greater Boston and western Massachusetts are expected to be named later this year.
Stephen Crosby, chairman of the five-member commission, said lawmakers have been urged not to do "anything serious" about online gambling until after the licenses are awarded, noting casino companies will be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Massachusetts, "and it's only appropriate that they be at the table when we figure out what do with Internet gaming."
Three states, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, currently allow some form of online gambling, with at least 10 other states considering bills, according to a recent survey by Gambling Compliance, a group that tracks gambling-related legislation worldwide.
State Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, told the commission that while Internet gambling seems likely to become a reality in the future, lawmakers are wary of potential effects on revenue to the state from lottery sales and future casinos.
"We don't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg on the state lottery and the new goose that is hopefully going to lay some golden eggs in the coming years, the slots parlor and casinos," said Rosenberg, one of the principal architects of the 2011 expanded gambling law.
Crosby said any venture into online gambling should take place "hand in glove" with efforts to address gambling addiction.
Executives of virtual casino providers International Game Technology and Bally Technology were among those who appeared at Tuesday's forum, along with representatives from New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.