Massachusetts is joining the growing number of US states considering legalizing intrastate online poker as a means of boosting state tax revenues. Under the terms of a bill introduced to the State Legislature last September, the Bay State would issue at least three online gaming licenses to poker sites as part of a larger gambling bill. Poker supporters were emboldened by a gaming friendly political climate that seemed open to all types of regulated gambling, both online and on land.
The poker amendment was added to the gambling bill by Senator Daniel Winslow (R-Norfolk) who originally wanted as many as five gaming licenses to be issued. Online poker supporters were pleased to see the amendment moved out of committee attached to the very popular bill that would bring three land-based casinos to Massachusetts for the first time. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it past a vote in the State Senate, which was cool to the thought of online gambling in any form.
Previous efforts to bring gambling, online and land based, to Massachusetts have failed despite the decidedly pro-gambling attitude of the state’s current Governor, Deval Patrick. Patrick vetoed an earlier casino bill because it would have tied slot machines exclusively to race tracks, rather than other casinos.
In its current form, the Massachusetts casino bill allows for three land based casino licenses to be issued in the state. This would mark the first time that Massachusetts residents would have the chance to gamble legally within the state’s borders.
Undaunted by his first efforts at bringing online poker to Massachusetts, Winslow recently introduced an amended form of the online poker amendment he hopes will receive a friendlier welcome from legislators. The newest version of the amendment was written with the help of Malta-based gaming company, Everest Poker.
Everest Poker is clearly angling to be one of the first companies to receive a license, a fact that’s reflected in the language of the bill. In this iteration of the online poker legislation, companies that took bets from American players after the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) would be ineligible to receive a license. (The UIGEAl all but shut down the US facing online gambling business by criminalizing financial transactions involving internet gambling money.)
Everest in one of the, relatively few, poker sites that prevented American players from participating in online poker tournaments and card games after 2006 in compliance with the Act. Most gaming sites continued dealing with US players, but wound up paying a heavy price when the Department of Justice all but shut down the US facing online poker industry last April in an action that would become known as Black Friday.
Should this latest, or an amended, version of a bill legalizing web based poker in Massachusetts pass, poker players would still be a long ways from enjoying their first legal rounds of online Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s expected that the process of setting up further regulations and issuing gaming licenses could take months. But that’s not too much of a problem for poker sites like Everest. The potential revenue from an legalized intrastate online poker is so large that it should more than make up for the wait.