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.

Plainville Is Getting A New Town Hall Thanks To Plainridge Casino

The anti-casino crowd will often turn up in the comment section of any article on gaming. They cynically ask where all the money is going, or what it’s being used for. In the case of Plainville, Massachusetts, there’s no mystery surrounding where a big chunk of the Plainridge Park Casino money is going though. On Monday night, about 100 residents of Plainville and a few local dignitaries were on hand to break ground on a new $34 million municipal complex. The new facility includes will include a town hall and public safety building. Funds collected from Plainridge Park Casino are paying for the project. Plainville sorely needs the new buildings. The outdated existing town hall and public safety building are too small to service the town. It will also remove a local eyesore. The project is going on a vacant site and an unused school that will be torn down to make way for the new municipal complex. Economic boon for the area Plainridge Casino’s benefits extend beyond just a new town hall. Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors in June 2015, when Plainridge Park Racecourse added the casino (1,250 slot machines). The property previously only offered live harness racing and simulcast racetrack. Despite the usual doomsday scenarios, the casino has been extremely beneficial to the local economy. In its first 12 months the casino paid “$75 million in taxes to the state, $4 million in taxes and fees to the Town of Plainville and created more than 500 jobs,” according to The Sun Chronicle. Additionally, The Sun Chronicle points out unemployed people occupied a quarter of those positions. After two years, Plainridge has generated $325 million in slot revenue alone. No adverse effects on the lottery Nor has the casino hurt existing gaming in the state, also known as the Massachusetts Lottery – one of the state’s prize possessions. As part of its Social and Economic Impacts Of Gambling In Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study, a report by the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences states: Crime concerns were way overblown In another report titled, Assessing the Impact of Gambling on Public Safety in Massachusetts Cities and Towns Analysis of changes in police data after the first year of operation at Plainridge Park Casino, by consultant Christopher W. Bruce, put fears of a casino-induced crime wave to rest. In his report, Bruce concluded:
In the first 12 months of activity, Plainridge Park produced crime and call figures commensurate with similarly-sized regional facilities.
There were few significant increases in crimes in the surrounding area.
Most significant increases were traffic-related activity: complaints, collisions, disabled vehicles, and suspicious vehicles.
There is some evidence of increases in economic crimes (credit card fraud, con games) tied to the casino’s presence.
Further studies are needed with full comparison datasets for crime and traffic collisions when data is available in 2017. Upshot In the not too distant future, Plainville residents will get a glimpse at what they voted in favor of every time they drive down Route 1a. They will also see it anytime they need to get a dog license or pay their water bill when they head to the new town hall. And it will be thanks to Plainridge Park Casino.

Sheldon Adelson Adds Willie Brown to his Collection of California Lobbyists

Avengers assemble! Or in the case of the online gambling debate, Lobbyists assemble! For anyone who thought Sheldon Adelson wasn’t paying all that much attention to California may I present you Exhibit A: Former Democratic Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist Fabian Nunez, and Exhibit B: Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who issued a statement after signing on to the cause as the new national co-chair and California chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling according to the LA Times. Brown, a former proponent of online gambling claims he had a change of heart, writing an open letter that stated in part, Brown isn’t the first person to have ties to both sides in this debate (on both sides), but he is the first that was openly for online gambling before being against it, which makes it kind of hard to give his “I was once on the wrong side of this issue” decree any worth; if he didn’t know then how does he know now? A spokesmen for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling claimed he didn’t know if Brown’s new position was a paid position or not, but according to the LA Times, Las Vegas Sands Corp has paid Nunez’s Mercury Public Affairs $175,000 over the past six months, so if Willie isn’t getting paid he might want to renegotiate his contract with CSIG. A trend is forming The hiring/addition of Brown comes after a period of relative quiet from the anti-online gambling crowd, which seems to be their MO in this fight. This is the second time Adelson and CSIG have gone dark, with the first occurring after Andy Abboud’s dismal failure in front of Congress, but after their short period of silence the group suddenly reemerged with a renewed push including a series of crazy “Cold War” YouTube videos that all but predicted online poker would lead to the end times. The second “calm before the storm” occurred after Abboud’s testimony in California last month where he was almost dismissed out of hand, and once again could not answer questions posed to him in a coherent fashion. Following Abboud’s California missteps (which really aren’t his fault, as the argument he is being asked to make has more holes in it than a golf course) Pennsylvania hosted a somewhat productive hearing sans any representatives from Adelson’s side, and then received a glowing report on how online gambling would impact the state, once again, with no pushback from Adelson. And during all of this Lindsey Graham has been bombarded from every flank, conservative and libertarian groups have condemned the proposed ban, and there was of course “DeweyGate.” But now Adelson seems to be ramping up his efforts once again. First with a Bloomberg TV interview and now with the addition of Brown to his CSIG roster. So, it would appear that online proponents should get used to this start-and-stop strategy from the anti-online gambling crowd. When things heat up Adelson and CSIG tend to go to ground, but they quickly reemerge with new allies, new talking points, and new vehicles to get their message out. I sometimes feel like I’m playing a game of lobbyist whack-a-mole and I never even put a quarter in the machine. Nunez’s role Nunez will be representing Sheldon Adelson at the upcoming California iGaming Conference being hosted by Capitol Weekly. This may signal a shift in the Adelson henchmen pecking order as thus far it has been Andy Abboud, the Vice President of Governmental Relations for Las Vegas Sands who has been dispatched to these types of events. Perhaps Abboud has benched in favor of Nunez, or perhaps this is just a one-off move to capitalize on Nunez’s California ties. Brown’s role Brown is a frequent guest on cable news shows and one of the better known figures in California and on a national level. He will likely act as a talking head for the Coalition as Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling have been getting more and more publicity on television as of late – with almost all of the coverage being critical of his perceived hypocrisy on this issue. Previous Post Next Post About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

MA Casinos Can Keep The Party Going Until 4 AM With New Liquor Laws

Massachusetts isn’t a “dry” state. However, if you want a drink after 2 a.m., you’re pretty much out of luck. In most parts of the state, last call is at 1 a.m. Thanks to a provision in the latest fiscal budget, there will very likely be two places that serve alcoholic beverages after 2 a.m. in the not too distant future: the state’s casinos. Because of that provision, when MGM Springfield opens in 2018 and Wynn Boston Harbor opens in 2019 they’ll be capable of procuring a liquor license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. That license will allow them to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. There is a mandated four-hour blackout period from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. The extended hours doesn’t apply to the sale of beverages at restaurants or bars inside the casino. In fact, the sale or distribution is restricted to “patrons who are actively engaged in gambling.” Per the fiscal budget: Another reason to go to MA instead of CT The decision to extend alcohol service hours will give Massachusetts casinos a leg up on their closest competitors in Connecticut. Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods stop alcohol service at 2 a.m. A spokesman for the Massachusetts House’s budget-writing committee told MassLive.com as much. He said the provision is designed to “help maximize the potential of the gaming industry in Massachusetts” and “ensure competitiveness.” Of course, the move by Massachusetts may spur on a similar change to hours of alcohol service in Connecticut. MGC can deny request The state is allowing casinos to serve alcohol after 2 a.m. However, the MGC will determine a casino’s liquor hours on a case-by-case basis. “If a licensee makes a request to extend drinking hours pursuant to the amended statute, the Commission would expect to conduct an extended public discussion on the issue and hear from a full range of constituencies, but at this point no such request has been made,” Massachusetts Gaming Commission Communications Director Elaine Driscoll told WWLP 22 News. MGM Springfield plans to file such a request. The casino is hoping to serve alcohol from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. as well as offer comp drinks on the gaming floor. Also speaking to WWLP, MGM Springfield spokesperson Carole Brennan said: Some casinos may not apply for extended liquor hours Plainridge Park Casino is a slots parlor located in Plainville, Massachusetts. It is also the only casino currently open in Massachusetts. The casino reached an agreement with the town that it would stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. That puts the casino in the same boat as the town’s other establishments. Nonetheless, state law permits some establishments in Plainridge to serve until 2 a.m. According to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, Plainridge Park reached the agreement after Plainville Police Chief James Alfred raised concerns that local bar goers might flock to Plainridge during the 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. hour to get another drink or two before heading home. Plainridge Casino says it has no interest in changing its agreement with the town, even though it would now be able to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. Alfred did say that resort casinos are a different ball of wax. After all, people tend to stay on site and aren’t drinking and driving. Whereas the Plainridge Casino doesn’t have a hotel, so pretty much every customer gets in their car and drives home.

Massachusetts Commission Giving Full Endorsement Of Online Gambling This Week?

Massachusetts might authorize a smorgasbord of online gaming in 2018. That is, if the Massachusetts legislature heeds the advice of the Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports assembled last year. The Commission is scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning in order to discuss the draft language of its final report. According to Statehouse News Service (paywall), the Commission could very well vote on the report during the meeting. The Commission has until July 31 to submit its finding to the legislature. This then gives the legislature a full year to hash out a bill before the daily fantasy sports (DFS) regulations passed in 2016 sunset. The current regulations are set to expire on July 21, 2018. Commission likely to recommend a comprehensive approach By all accounts, the Commission is going to recommend a comprehensive regulatory approach towards online gambling. That would include:
Installing permanent DFS regulations
Authorizing online casino and poker games run through the state’s casinos
Giving the Massachusetts Gaming Commission the ability to deal with new, non-traditional online gaming products on a case-by-case basis Does lottery need to go online first? However, the legislature is likely going to have to deal with online lottery before it turns its attention to online gaming and DFS. The Commission purposefully left online lottery off the agenda. As Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said last month: Can Massachusetts get it done in 2018? Even by state legislature standards, Massachusetts tends to move very slowly. This is particularly true when it comes to an issue like gambling. That being said, the need to craft DFS regulations prior to the July 2018 deadline, and developments in other states may help push Massachusetts across the finish line sooner rather than later. Pennsylvania is exploring a similar omnibus online approach. It already has a bill in the hopper that would legalize and regulate online gambling and DFS. The bill would also authorize the state to take its lottery online. Some version of the bill is expected to pass this year. Even closer to home, the New Hampshire legislature recently authorized online lottery and Keno sales. New Hampshire’s actions will almost certainly accelerate progress in neighboring Massachusetts. After all, many Granite State residents routinely went to bars and restaurants across the border to play keno.

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:

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.