Some Massachusetts lawmakers have started laying the groundwork to make theirs a state where it is legal to play online poker in the US.
Sponsoring a proposal to include the words ‘Internet gaming operator’ in the 2014 state budget and provisions for allocating potential gambling revenues are just part of this effort.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the prospect of American gambling laws settling the issue of online poker (and casinos) on a federal level, Massachusetts may be joining the ranks of those jurisdictions that have already been moving towards state-level solutions.
The full proposal – House Bill 3400 – would allow the licensing of online poker operators for a period of 10 years, at the cost of USD 10 million. These operators would also be required to ensure that all otherwise applicable legislation (e.g. the exclusion of minors) is observed.
At the same time the bill would ban the setting up of an American internet casino in Massachusetts, as well as sports betting.
HB 3400 would also mandate the operators to be very transparent about their rake. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission would be empowered by law to introduce sector-specific rules for online poker, which could affect existing licenses. Potential operators are unlikely to find this latter provision very attractive.
The eastern state with its population of 6.5 million people may also lack sufficient player liquidity to attract poker operators, especially if the rules are overly stringent. Thus a careful balance between public interest and corporate profitability must be found. At the same time, Massachusetts could be an excellent base for such companies if interstate compacts become a reality.
The proposal still has to wind its way through committees before it can have a chance to be voted on.