Massachusetts Tables Online Poker Clause In Budget

In the past week, people in Massachusetts lived through an unexpected and unpredictable tragedy, but the state’s lawmakers are attempting to get back to business as usual.  The House of Representatives is reviewing proposals for the 2014 state budget, and one of the clauses attached to the legislation includes a passage about legalized online poker.  Pro-online poker advocates in the House recognize players are gambling on offshore sites, which is taking money out of the Massachusetts economy.

The inclusion of the online poker amendment was made following the Federal Justice Department’s amendment of the Unlawful Internet Betting Act, or simply The Wire Act.  The amendment clarified language in the act, which only imposes a ban upon online sportsbetting.  The act allows individual states to enact their own laws regarding online poker and other online casino games.  Nevada, Delaware, and most recently New Jersey passed their own laws, while other states are considering their own laws.

Massachusetts partly reformed its views on gambling, when it authorized the construction of three privatized land-based casinos.  The casinos are currently without operators as the state is reviewing licensing applications, but lawmakers forecast operators will be selected by 2014 and the casinos to be opened in 2016.  However, 18 members of the House believe the gambling reform should be applied to the online market as well, and with the recent federal amendments and actions in New Jersey, pro-online gaming representatives want to legalize the activity.

The reformists recognize that Massachusetts citizens already play poker through offshore betting sites, but that money is lost to the state economy.  The argument is that if online poker is legalized within the state and operators are licensed to service the market, players will bet on the legal domains and keep their money within the state.  The motion will expand the gambling industry, which will expectedly create 1,000 new jobs in the new market.

Similar to New Jersey, Massachusetts is proposing a 10 year trial run, after which online poker licenses may be renewed or revoked. 

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