A set of Massachusetts gaming bills, HB 375 through HB 379, were first introduced in late January by state Rep. Bradford Hill, with little ripple in the state Legislature. They were referred to the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee immediately after.
This week, Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg made her most recent pitch for expanding legal gambling with online storefronts for lottery and scratch card games. Her bill was filed last month with verbiage similar to Hill’s earlier pieces of legislation.
Potential shift in gambling
The state has been able to raise millions of dollars annually for local aid and programs thanks to lottery sales. However, Goldberg contends that won’t be the case for much longer unless ticket sales are opened online. The push comes as an effort to compete with other online forms of gambling, like fantasy sports wagering.
The lottery had been the only gambling avenue available in Massachusetts until 2011, when casinos became legal. Regulators saw the need to then protect the institution of the Massachusetts Lottery, so they built provisions to protect its revenue. Today, proponents of the legalization of online lottery ticket sales say that the conversation around online sports betting dominates attention. The ease of online and mobile betting makes the outdated lottery system seem considerably antiquated and inconvenient by comparison.
When given the opportunity to voice her concerns this week, the treasurer said, “We can well manage the decline of the Massachusetts State Lottery. It won’t happen overnight, but it will ultimately happen in the same way that I think Sears and Toys R Us are.” She sent on to say, “The thing we can control is whether or not we modernize if we’re given that authority.”
Online lottery advantages and gaming cooperation
One of the described advantages of online ticket sales is being able to leverage mobile notifications when jackpots climb to noteworthy heights. Being able to not only make the purchasing of tickets more convenient but also incorporating modern technology into the sales strategy is what the institution allegedly needs to remain competitive. Jobs are another alleged benefit of the legislation in question, as more Massachusetts residents will need to join the team to serve an online client base and keep the lottery’s web-based storefront maintained.
Michael Sweeney, executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery, spoke of fairness in light of conversations regarding online sports betting.
“As we continue this discussion about other types of pathways for gambling,” Sweeney said, “particularly sports betting if the commonwealth does go in that direction and if it particularly offers an online or mobile aspect to the sports betting, I think it would be fair for the lottery, as well as fair to our casino partners, that those new providers have a similar requirement.” Sweeney would go on to suggest that online gambling operators, like DraftKings and FanDuel, could help promote the online lottery with shared resources. Namely, Sweeney would like to see gambling companies share customer email addresses for promotional purposes and analytics. It remains unclear if other gambling companies will be willing to share such data.