Massachusetts Legislature May Legalize Online Poker

A bill is under consideration in the Massachusetts Legislature that would allow existing commercial casinos to offer online gaming, specifically online poker games. Although at present there is only one casino in the state, MGM and Wynn are both building casinos in the Bay State, with the Wynn casino slated for completion in 2019.

A number of Native American groups have also lobbied the state for years and two tribes have immediate plans for gaming facilities, while one is embroiled in a dispute with the state government about the prospect. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe recently began construction on a Cape Cod casino that will be modeled after Las Vegas resorts.

The proposed bill would allow licensed casinos to operate gaming operations online as long as the type of gaming does not compete with the state lottery slot machine games found in Massachusetts. In other words, the bill would allow for online table games, including poker.

There are also calls for legalizing online sports betting and lottery games. At least one legislator has expressed his support for a new bill that will legalize and regulate online gaming in Massachusetts. Although several other states also have pending legislation that would legalize poker, the fact that Massachusetts is on the brink of allowing this type of gambling is particularly impressive, considering that the state only recently legalized casino gambling. By law, the number of legal casinos is currently capped at three.

The process underway is the result of a Massachusetts Gaming Commission decision to form a committee to investigate the possibility of legalizing poker.

The state only recently legalized fantasy sports, and if the committee recommends the new bill, it might take the form of an omnibus regulatory act that could usher in a broad expansion of gambling. However, there is significant opposition, to the new casinos as well as the proposal to allow online gaming. Several community groups are against the casinos being built in their areas due to fears of increased crime and traffic.

Americans residing in all states and jurisdictions already have access to online casino games operated in foreign countries. It is expected that as more and more states legalize online gambling, the federal government may follow suit and soften the US’s hardline stance on the popular pastime.