Massachusetts gambling bill may criminalize online gambling

6 April 2010
Legislation that would allow land-based casinos in Massachusetts includes a provision that may criminalize online gambling.

The gambling bill proposed by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo would license two resort-style casinos in Massachusetts as well as 750 slot machines at the Commonwealth's four racetracks. The casino licenses would be sold for a minimum of $100 million each while slot licenses would be sold for at least $15 million apiece.

The bill would also create an estimated 3,500 permanent jobs at each casino, 100 jobs at each racetrack, and 3,500 "spinoff jobs" at amenities around the casinos.

The state would collect 25 percent of casino revenue and 40 percent of slot-machine revenue in this proposal.

However, Section 36 (v) of the 172-page bill states that "Any person who knowingly transmits or receives a wager of any type by any telecommunication device, including telephone, cellular phone, Internet, local area network, including wireless local networks, or any other similar device of equipment or other medium of communication, or knowingly installs or maintains said device or equipment for the transmission or receipt of wagering information shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail of house of correction for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $25,000, or both such fine and imprisonment."

Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas posted on the Two Plus Two Poker Forums that he was taken aback by the inclusion of the provision.

"Well, the PPA maybe spoke too soon on this," he wrote. "After receiving several assurances from lawmakers that the criminalization language would not be in there, and being told by the author of the bill today that it was not, our lobbyist shared the good news. We in turn shared it on this forum. Well, I just learned via email from my lobbyist that the language is in the bill."

The PPA has not released any official statement about the legislation. It did post on its Web site that it "is not opposed to the Commonwealth seeking to expand casino style gambling. (However, it does) oppose provisions within the bill that would make it a crime for (players) to play poker on the Internet."