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Online Poker Gaining Traction in Massachusetts

As the state of Massachusetts (actually it’s a Commonwealth) inches closer to building three resort-style casinos within its borders lawmakers in the state haven’t started laying the groundwork for even more gaming expansion, as online poker has started to become a topic of conversation.

The original bill that allowed for the three resort-style casinos, along with a single slots parlor, also contained language regarding online poker, calling for an exploratory committee to be formed, and it now looks like proponents were not just talking the talk with online poker, and they are thinking that Massachusetts could join the ranks of states that have legalized online poker sooner rather than later.

According to a recent article in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette by John J. Monahan, lawmakers are ready to introduce a bill that would see online poker legalized in Massachusetts by the end of the year. The intra-state online poker would be run by the state Lottery Commission, and if they can somehow manage to keep to their timetable Massachusetts could be among the very first states with legalized online poker –something that was even considered a possibility as little as a month ago.

Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman, a longtime proponent of expanded gambling in the state, saying, “The threat from the Internet is imminent. Doing nothing is not an option. We need to move forward and test appropriately.” Grossman now has an ally in State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster) who is introducing the bill.

The bill would allow adult residents of Massachusetts to participate in some form of online poker, with testing hopefully taking place by the end of the year. Providers and software have not been discussed, but Grossman does want all of the state’s 7,400 current lottery providers to share in the action, and the bill calls for prospective players to purchase credits at licensed lottery retailers, where they could use their credit cards. Grossman believes this pre-pay system would allow lottery providers to continue to reap the 5% commission on sales, although just how the 1% commission retailers currently receive on winnings would be tracked is still unknown.

Flanagan was one of the sponsors of the Casino Bill that passed last year, and sees the potential for increased revenue as something that is simply too good to pass up. Flanagan was quoted by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette as saying, “This isn’t a debate over whether you like gaming or not, this is a debate over the fact that we have to move to online gaming, [to protect state revenues]”

Should the bill pass Massachusetts would join Nevada (who is expecting to launch real-money online poker in mere weeks) and Delaware as the only other states in the union to pass online gaming legislation.

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