The Massachusetts legislature has advanced a cautious plan to let its State Lottery experiment with the internet as a delivery channel for its products. The plan has already received an informational hearing in a committee with members of both chambers of the legislature.
The bill would authorize the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to conduct a two-year “pilot program” to evaluate new “technologies, delivery mechanisms, sales channels, and other innovations.” The terms are probably intended to reflect a desire to limit offerings to traditional lottery-style numbers games—not to expand a new range of gambling opportunities.
The program probably will not produce explosive new revenue gains for Massachusetts, but nor is it intended to. The State Lottery already has exclusive control over the market for lottery products in Massachusetts, so it’s not as though new internet offerings will divert much revenue that would otherwise flow to offshore operators.
The real benefit of the pilot program is that it could help prepare the Lottery to compete on the internet on a broader scale at some later date if it becomes feasible.
State Treasurer Steve Grossman, whose department oversees the State Lottery, publicly opposes the pilot program, claiming it would violate federal law. But the Treasurer does not get to vote in the Legislature, and he is incorrect anyway (see 31 U.S.C. § 5362(10)(B); the term ‘unlawful Internet gambling’ does not include placing, receiving, or otherwise transmitting a bet or wager… initiated and received or otherwise made exclusively within a single State; … and the method… is expressly authorized by and placed in accordance with the laws of such State.).
State Senator Michael F. Rush introduced Senate Bill 132 in January, but he has since been called to Iraq by the Navy Reserves. His chief of staff appears to be managing the issue.
View the legislation at the website of the Massachusetts Legislature: Senate Bill 132.
See also: West Roxbury Patch: State Sen. Rush Wants to Create Online Gaming Pilot Program for Massachusetts,