MA Commission Loves Online Gambling, But Wants To Take Things Slow

The Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports unveiled a draft version of its findings and recommendations during its final meeting on Tuesday. Play MA has obtained a copy of the draft. The report is all-encompassing and offers multiple recommendations. The commission is expected to submit a finalized version to the Massachusetts Legislature on Monday, July 31. Key findings and recommendations After multiple hearings and discussions during the last eight months, the nine-member commission came to the following conclusions:
“Online gaming” should be defined broadly to encompass all manner of online games (including DFS).
The legislature should work to balance regulation with innovation. Additionally, it needs to develop a robust framework as to how all online gaming should be governed, taxed, and regulated.
Rather than legalizing all online gaming at once, the legislature should retain oversight on which parts of online gaming should be legalized. In reaching those conclusions, the commission recommends:
Permanently legalizing and regulating DFS under the classification of online gaming.
Slowing discussions about legalizing other forms of online gaming until the state’s land-based casinos are open for business. Legalize on a case-by-case basis The commission is recommending the legislature “proceed with caution” when it comes to legalizing online gaming. In fact, it recommends making all online gaming illegal. Then the state can legalize and regulate on a case-by-case basis. “The Special Commission recommends that online gaming be illegal, but that there be game-based exceptions that may be legalized by the Legislature and regulated and taxed appropriately,” the report states. The report goes on to explain the commission’s reasoning for supporting the legalization of DFS. It also justifies the commission’s cautious approach to online casino games: It’s all gambling Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the report is the recommendation of a broad definition of online gaming. This is something Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman and Special Commission member Stephen Crosby has long advocated. In the report, the commission pushes for the following definition of online gaming: Essentially, a wager of any kind in any online format constitutes online gambling, regardless of skill. This definition eliminates the possibility of DFS-esque legal battles over skill and luck and whether a new product fits into the gaming box or needs a new classification. If the legislature adopts the commission’s recommendations, it would all be classified as gaming in Massachusetts. Benefits of online gaming abound Even though the commission didn’t advocate for legalizing online gaming beyond DFS at this time, the report is very favorable to online gaming. The report lists five benefits of online gaming:
Tax revenue
Jobs
Reduction in illegal activity
Transparency
Safety of online operations Here’s a closer look at what the report says on each of these topics. Tax revenue Jobs Reduction in illegal activity Transparency Safety of online operations These problems are not real problems The report also rebuts the three core arguments of online gaming opponents:
Underage gambling
Problem gambling
Cannibalization Underage gaming The Commission notes that “online gaming provides for numerous safeguards against this behavior that are absent in brick-and-mortar facilities.” The report goes on to explain that the requirements to protect against underage gambling can be tightened or relaxed based on the concern. Moreover, anything from dual-step verification to personal data verification can be implemented. Problem gaming The report is more concerned with problem gambling. “Given the recent adoption of online gaming, it will be critical to require any legalization effort to include requirements for the study of any associated problem gaming,” the report says. However, it also points out “online gaming provides an environment that can be completely controlled from the perspective of setting funding, betting and time limits on any associated play.” It also argues the ability to collect data will “be invaluable to researchers on problem gaming to the extent it was made available.” Cannibalization of existing games “Another argument that has been raised against the legalization of online gaming is that doing so will result in the cannibalization of casino profits,” the report says. “Online gaming does not appear to cannibalize offline gaming.” The report goes on to cite copious research (here, here, and here) as well as the firsthand experiences of casinos in New Jersey to set the record straight.

MA Attorney General’s Anti-Online Gaming Argument Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Online gaming supporters are accustomed to dealing with misinformation campaigns, hypocritical stances, and exaggerated what-ifs from the anti-online crowd. We’ve seen it all: everything from web ads featuring terrorists trotted out by the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, to the hyperbolic fears of underage gamblers, to the roundly rejected claims of land-based cannibalization. Well, at least we thought we’d seen it all. Usually, these attacks come from people and groups with obvious agendas. That isn’t the case when it comes to the most recent critic of online gambling, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The recent stance taken by the attorney general is one of the most astounding cases of a willfully ignorant online gambling double standard to date. The most troubling aspect is it’s coming from the pulpit of a highly respected office. You can’t have it both ways First, let’s not look past the fact that it was Healey who crafted the current regulations on daily fantasy sports (DFS) in Massachusetts. Healey doesn’t have any qualms about DFS being legal, or the efficacy of the regulations she drew to protect DFS customers, yet she somehow doesn’t think “consumers can be adequately protected if gaming opportunities proliferate on the internet.” This is according to Assistant Attorney General Dan Krockmalnic. Krockmalnic made the comment during a July 31 meeting of the Massachusetts Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports, just before abstaining from voting on the final proposal. What Healey and her office don’t understand is DFS and online gaming regulations are an apples-to-apples comparison. The regulations that would protect online casino and online poker players are the same regulations that protect DFS consumers. Both industries require:
Age, identity, and location verification
Following federal anti-money laundering procedures
Implementing responsible gaming policies
Instituting third-party audits to ensure game integrity and player fund segregation If the attorney general doesn’t trust online gaming safeguards, she can’t trust DFS safeguards. They are one in the same. Her position is akin to saying consumers can trust helmets will protect kids on bicycles but not on skateboards. Regulated online gaming sites have better consumer protections Healey also falls into the trap that has ensnared so many anti-gambling people: conflating regulated and unregulated gambling. As noted many, many times, opposing regulated online gaming is the same as supporting the status quo in Massachusetts, which is unregulated online gambling. It’s unregulated sites that are the real problem. The Massachusetts AG falsely believes the state cannot regulate online gaming despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. This evidence includes annual reports from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, including this one, which states, “From a regulatory standpoint, our system is working.” But if the AG requires more evidence that regulated online gaming works, we can help out:
Geolocation failures are infrequent and minor, and these failures were caught and fixed.
Online gambling does a better job than land-based casinos when it comes to preventing underage gambling. Here’s a look at the safeguards in place.
Regulated sites that have gone belly-up repaid players immediately. That’s not even close to what happens at unregulated sites, where players are lucky to ever recoup their account balances. I would ask the AG precisely what proposed online gaming regulation she doesn’t trust. If there was systemic abuse or faulty consumer protections, Adelson and anti-online gambling groups would be trotting it out at every opportunity. The reason they don’t is because the industry is regulated well. Healey is not a fan of gambling So why would Healey make such a sweeping, generalized critique of online gambling? It may be that she simply doesn’t like gambling. During her 2014 campaign, Healey was publicly in favor of repealing the Massachusetts casino law passed in 2011. There’s nothing wrong with that, but disparaging an industry she morally opposes isn’t something I expect from someone in such a prominent position — a position where getting facts straight is of the utmost importance. If the AG is against online gaming so be it; but promoting false concerns about an industry through the power of her position as the chief law enforcement officer in Massachusetts is reprehensible.

Massachusetts Lottery Is Cracking Down On Fraudulent Ticket Cashers

There are a small group of people who seem to have the lottery figured out. Some people are cashing 20 or more winning tickets in a year, and banking over $20,000. This is something the lottery keeps track of and calls the 20/20 list, which it sends to law enforcement and tax collectors. There are three explanations for landing on this list:
These players are buying a lot of lottery tickets
They’re on the right side of variance
They’re cashing winning tickets for the real winners. The final explanation is the most likely, and the Massachusetts Lottery is starting to take steps to crack down on ticket cashers. From here on out, cashing in more than your fair share of winning tickets will not only land you on the Lottery’s radar and the 20/20 list, it may prevent you from claiming future prizes. The MA Lottery’s new policy A new policy detailed by Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney on Wednesday places a soft-cap on the number of significant winning tickets a person can claim. The new policy takes effect on Oct. 1. According to Statehouse News Service (paywall): Players are able to appeal the decision. “We are going to be more proactive in this area … to make sure things are on the up and up,” Sweeney said. “This is the Lottery increasing our due diligence in protecting the games and the consumers.” Ticket cashing 101 Ticket cashing for someone else seems like a win-win in most situations, but it’s highly illegal. Some lottery winners who want to avoid taxes may offer a low-income acquaintance a percentage of the winnings if they cash the ticket for them. So, instead of getting whacked at 39 percent at the end of the year, they might pay someone 5 or 10 percent of the prize to cash the ticket for them. That person may not have to pay any taxes on the winnings, depending on their income. Other winners may pay a ticket casher substantially more, and this is where the practice becomes disturbing. Undocumented residents and anyone with outstanding warrants, child support payments, or taxes are just some of the people may not want to show up at lottery headquarters to claim a substantial prize. They may pay through the teeth to avoid doing so, as it’s the difference between collecting something or nothing. Ticket scams a bigger problem than you might think Ticket cashing is nothing new, but just how big a deal is it? Bigger than you might think. It’s not just a few people doing their friends and family a solid a few times a year. According to Statehouse News Service, people aren’t simply cashing in 20 tickets in a year, some people are cashing in 20 or more tickets a week: The article also notes another person on the Lottery’s list has claimed 609 prizes of $1,000 or more in 2017. As Sweeney noted, the amount of winning tickets some people are claiming “strain credulity.” And that is putting it mildly. According to Statehouse News, the odds of winning $1,000 on one of the lottery’s new $10 tickets is 1-in-2,087. That means a person would need to buy, on average, 2,087 $10 tickets (at a cost of $20,870) to win a single prize of $1,000. To be clear, that’s not their return, as they will win plenty of smaller prizes too. A player cashing in 936 tickets from January 1 – July 31, like Jaafar, would require them to purchase about 2 million tickets. That works out to over 9,000 tickets per day, scratching them at a clip of 6.4 tickets every minute, 24 hours a day, non-stop. This wouldn’t be an issue online Massachusetts is toying with the idea of allowing online lottery sales, and ticket cashing is one of the many issues the lottery faces that wouldn’t be an issue online. Because each player has to register an account, every winning ticket can be traced to the person who purchased it. Unlike an anonymous ticket purchased at a brick and mortar lottery retailer, when you show up at Lottery headquarters to claim a prize you won online, they already know who you are.

For Once, A Casino Construction Project Is Running Right On Schedule

Roughly one year from today, MGM Springfield Casino will open its doors to the public. According to recent reports that puts construction of the casino project on schedule, including the 3,400 space parking garage, which chould open with the casino proper. As seen in the video below, the ambitious $1 billion casino project is beginning to take shape in the Western Massachusetts city of Springfield: A peek inside the MGM Springfield Casino Even though the $2.4 billion Wynn Boston Harbor will cost more than double what the MGM Springfield will, the MGM casino is going to be a major destination resort. The property will feature:
3,000 slot machines and 100 table games
A 250-room, four-star hotel
A 3,375-space attached parking garage
Eight restaurants, dining options, and bars
26,000 square feet of retail space
Entertainment options including a bowling alley and cinema
54 residential units repurposed from existing historical buildings on the site MGM’s location could draw visitors from all around One of the big advantages for the MGM casino is its western Massachusetts location. It may not have the built-in population base Wynn’s Boston project possesses, but the Massachusetts casino does sit at the crossroads for drivers travelling to and from Boston, New York City, Hartford, and beyond. Driving time from city:
Hartford, Connecticut – 30 minutes
New Haven, Connecticut – 1 hour
Providence, Rhode Island – 1 hour and 30 minutes
Boston, Massachusetts – 1 hour and 45 minutes
Albany, New York – 1 hour and 30 minutes
New York City, New York – 3 hours Employment opportunities When the doors open, the casino will employ some 3,000 people from an anticipated 125,000 applicants. That’s on top of the roughly 2,000 construction jobs the project created. These jobs are sorely needed in Springfield, which boasts one of the higher unemployment rates in Massachusetts at 6.9 percent. That’s nearly double the average in Massachusetts (3.9 percent), and more than double Boston’s unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. Among the staffing needs at the MGM Springfield are:
600 dealers and croupiers for blackjack, poker, and other games
80 cashiers to work the casino cages
A 200-person strong security team
150 culinary artists for the properties numerous dining venues

Nevada Online Poker Review: Reno CEO’s About-Face on Internet Gambling, Revenue Numbers Finally Released

Even though the debate over online gambling continues to rage on (Sheldon Adelson was apparently very sincere when he proclaimed he was going to fight online gambling to the bitter end) the most talked about stories coming out of Nevada over the past week has been in regards to the recent revenue numbers for February, which for the first time included the state’s online poker numbers. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Review we’ll breakdown those revenue numbers for both land-based and online gambling; we’ll also discuss the CEO of the Atlantis Reno, John Farahi’s newfound opposition to online gambling; and we’ll fill you in on the latest tournament results, traffic numbers and gossip coming out of Nevada including potential strike by a union with 37,000 members. Farahi explains new stance on online poker Last week we brought you the news via Jon Ralston that Atlantis Reno owner John Farahi had come out against online poker in the state. In detailing Farahi’s opposition I brought up the interesting angle to the story explaining how the Atlantis Hotel and Casino (under the name Monarch Casino and Resort) had applied for and received an online poker license in Nevada. As Ricky Ricardo would say; someone has some splaining to do! Farahi was willing to explain his new position, as he spoke with the Reno Gazette Journal recently, and in an article published on Monday explained his flip-flop on the issue. “We used to be for it, but we found out poker is being used as a tool to jar the door open to wide-open online Internet gaming,” Farahi told the newspaper, right before launching into Sheldon Adelson’s talking points almost verbatim: “How do you control a person who comes home from work and blows the paycheck?” Farahi said. “Or someone not 21 years old?” Farahi isn’t the only casino owner to change his stance on online gambling. Earlier this year Steve Wynn came out against online gambling, but unlike Adelson and Farahi, Wynn wasn’t worried about the morality of the industry, his concerns were almost purely economic, as he said he just didn’t see a feasible revenue stream from the fledgling industry. Nevada casino revenue plummets in February The most recent revenue figures for Nevada’s gambling industry showed a steep decline in year-over-year revenue for the month of February. Actually, a decline is probably not a strong enough term to describe the near 14% drop the report revealed. The hardest hit area was the Las Vegas Strip, where revenue was down some 20% year-over-year (nearly $700 million in 2013 and just over $550 million in 2014) while Downtown Vegas showed a slight boost in revenue, with revenue increasing about 3%. The revenue figures may not have been what the industry was hoping for, but it may not get quite as much negative attention as it normally would as the report also contained Nevada’s much anticipated online poker revenue for the very first time. Online poker revenue numbers As mentioned in the previous header, for the first time since its launch in April of 2013 we are finally able to see the revenue numbers from Nevada’s online poker industry. The reason for the long wait was because Nevada regulators came up with the arbitrary threshold of needing three online poker sites before they would release the revenue data, and with the recent launch of South Point Poker’s Real Gaming in February the Nevada market reached three providers — WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker being the other two. As far as the numbers went, they were pretty much in line with what analysts expected to see, as total revenue since launch was $8.5 million. Unfortunately, the NGCB did not break down the revenue by operator, so the best we can do is speculate based on the information in the report and the traffic data available. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed 89 players registered for the $215 $15k Guaranteed at WSOP.com this past Sunday, creating a total prize-pool of $17,800, with a player using the screen-name “cantfakeit” taking home the largest share, pocketing just over $5,000 for the win. There was one well-known player at the final table, as Christina Lindley finished in 6th place.
cantfakeit – $5,073.00
naifliest – $2,937.00
aggie69 – $1,780.00
rprops – $1,424.00
PaulDewald – $1,228.20
Christina “lindeyloo” Lindley – $1,050.20
fbpoker – $872.20
Villain – $605.20
jchak – $480.60 WSOP Main Event Satellite Another Nevada online poker player has punched their ticket to the World Series of Poker Main Event, as the WSOP.com player “orono” won this week’s satellite tournament. There was an even larger overlay ($1,600 compared to last week’s $1,400) than last week as one less player registered for WSOP Main Event qualifier this week.
orono – $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker This week the $10,000 guaranteed at Ultimate Poker saw a nice increase from last week’s 88 registrants, as 103 players showed up this past Sunday to partake in the event. the 103 entries still wasn’t enough to reach the guarantee, but fell short by only about $600.
VegasPlayer $2,893.10
DonkeyDik $1,811.90
Thekat $1,361.40
Honey Badger $910.90
maddogjim $730.70
Gametime $550.50
JCarver $370.30
Gerald $280.20
allinallen $190.10 Traffic trends in Nevada Over the past week traffic at WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker ticked up ever so slightly, as average cash-game traffic at WSOP.com rose from 95 to 100 players, while Ultimate Poker had a similar increase, going from 65 to 70 players according to www.pokerscout.com. South Point’s Real Gaming online poker site continues to be a non-factor with average traffic still sitting at 0. The word on the street Culinary Union OK’s strike One of the strongest unions in Nevada, the Culinary and Bartenders Union, has voted to strike against 10 Las Vegas casinos according to multiple outlets. All 10 of the casinos are located in the Downtown area, and includes landmarks like the Golden Nugget, Binions, El Cortez, and the Four Queens. The Union has reached an agreement with Las Vegas Strip properties. What is the reason for the strike? It seems the two sides are at an impasse (the current contract expired in June of 2013), and the union has now cut off contract talks with the sticking point being health care.

Another Legal Plot Twist Keeps First Light Casino Faint Hopes Alive

As we’ve reported in the past, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s attempts to build a tribal casino in Taunton have produced more plot twists than M. Night Shyamalan.
The The Department of the Interior (DOI) placed the tribe’s land into trust in September 2015, paving the way for the tribe to build a casino.
A group of Taunton residents filed suit and won their case. This brought construction efforts to a halt.
The tribe appealed the ruling (a case it later dropped). It requested the DOI reexamine its land in trust application on different grounds.
The DOI planned to rule on June 19, but delayed the decision until June 27.
Expecting the decision to go against it, the tribe withdrew its request on June 26.
Days later, the DOI rejected the tribe’s request and reopened the case. It expects to rule on it in the fall. Since our last update, yet another plot twist unfolded. A bill in Congress, introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), aims to make it easier for tribes federally recognized after 1934 to take land into trust. It does so by “fixing” the language the DOI uses to determine if a tribe can have its land placed into trust. At the core of the issue is a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that requires most tribes to have been federally recognized prior to the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. The Carcieri Ruling, as it’s become known, is the centerpiece of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s casino travails. According to the bill summary, it would effectively overturn the decision and clarify the Indian Reorganization Act: The fix is sorely needed Fixes of this sort are nothing new. The 2009 ruling has widespread impacts on Indian country. Legislatures introduced multiple bills to redefine the Indian Reorganization Act in order to extend land-in-trust status to any federally recognized tribe regardless of when it was recognized. At the heart of the matter is the undefined phrase “under federal jurisdiction.” In Carcieri vs. Salazar, the court determined they meant under federal jurisdiction in 1934 — when the law was written. But critics of the decision would argue that a common-sense reading simply means under federal jurisdiction. The ruling has been the bane of several tribes trying to better their communities. Land in trust is not just a casino issue Not every tribe is in an area where a casino would make sense. With that in mind, putting land in trust isn’t simply a casino issue. As Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Nation in Maine, said at a recent Congressional hearing on Cole’s bill: