State of Mass. Could Take Hard Line on I-Gaming

29 October 2007

A new bill could make Massachusetts the third U.S. state [see footnote 1. -Ed.] to make online gambling a felony.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Oct. 11 proposed a gambling expansion bill to authorize the construction of three resort casinos in the state, but it includes a section banning the placement of wagers through Internet gambling sites within or outside the state. Violation of the law is punishable by two years in jail and/or a $25,000 fine.

Under section 15 (h)(2)(i), the legislation proposes a ban on Internet gambling activity from within and outside of Massachusetts.

"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 or 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 house of correction for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $25,000, or both," the section states.

In the United States, 12 states have express written laws banning online gambling within their borders. Two of those states, Washington and Louisiana, threaten felony charges for violation of their laws.

Gambling law expert I. Nelson Rose said the states that have passed online gambling bans haven't realized that there is a problem, in that there is a strong presumption in the law that it doesn't apply outside its borders, unless it specifically says it applies outside its borders.

Patrick's bill is similar to legislation adopted by several other states that have instituted specific prohibitions on Internet gambling; however, it does stipulate that the law would apply to people either in or outside of Massachusetts who are involved with online gambling in the state.

"This section shall apply to any person who, from within this [state], transmits a wager to, or receives a wager from, another person or gaming establishment within or outside of this [state] and any person who, from outside this [state], transmits a wager to, or receives a wager from, another person or gaming establishment within this [state]," the bill states.

Rose compared the bill to Louisiana, where the law does criminalize online gambling inside the state, but said Patrick's language covers Internet bets made from both within and outside the state--an argument that may have come in handy for former Sportinbet Non-Executive Director Peter Dicks, had he been extradited there last fall.

"Even Louisiana's--which they used against Peter Dicks--even if they extradited him he had another defense because it didn't apply to him, because it could be read that everything had to be within Louisiana," Rose said. "This one specifically says that they made it a crime for anyone in Massachusetts to make or receive a bet who maintains a computer system, [as well as for] anyone who makes or receives a bet from outside the [state]. And they do make it a felony, just like the state of Washington did, to play Internet poker--if it passes, of course."

Calls to Patrick’s office were not immediately returned.

Click here to view a copy of the bill.


  • Massachusetts is one of four constituent states of the United States (Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia) that officially designates itself a Commonwealth, although the title carries no legal weight in relation to the U.S. Constitution. "State" was used to minimize the possibility of any confusion.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.