Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey – that is the batting order for US states which have already passed some form of online gambling legislation legalizing the activity for their residents and visitors. And while California, Hawaii, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and other states have been pushing to offer their own brand of online gambling, it looks like Massachusetts could be the next state up to bat. 18 Massachusetts House of Representatives members recently attached a rider to their annual budget which would legalize and regulate online poker.
Attached to the 2014 fiscal year budget, the proposal uses language like “Internet card rooms” and also includes provisions for physical casinos to benefit from offering online poker. Massachusetts is already casino-friendly towards brick-and-mortar gambling houses, and many believe that the state of is ready to allow online poker. Sponsors of the bill stated that “thousands of Massachusetts residents gamble online with offshore sites.” Anytime politicians see a large amount of money, they instantly want to grab a piece, and in this case it would just make sense to keep the money in Massachusetts state coffers instead of shipping it overseas.
The provision allows that by regulating their own Massachusetts online poker sites, tens of millions of dollars in much-needed revenue could be created immediately for licensing. Annual revenue would obviously be generated from ongoing licensing and annual taxes, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives members behind the budget rider believe that more than 1,000 high-paying jobs would also be created.
The framework of the legislation also mentions that more jobs and revenue would be created due to the problem gambling programs, law enforcement and consumer protection entities that would have to be formed. The bill openly acknowledges the US Department of Justice opinion reversal of the Wire Act on December 23, 2011 that stated only sports betting was made illegal by that Wire Act.
That decision also said that online poker and other USA virtual casino games would be allowed by federal authorities if individual states make them legal at that level. The Massachusetts bill addresses only online poker, and would only allow three online poker operator licenses initially. Licenses would last for 10 years, and residents or visitors of Massachusetts would be required to be at least 21 years of age. A licensing fee of $10 million would be required up front, which would be applied to the first $10 million worth of taxes owed by the online poker license holder.