Lottery seeks authority to experiment with online gaming
Massachusetts State Lottery officials asked lawmakers Tuesday to pass legislation enabling the agency to experiment with online gaming operations, the Boston newspaper Sentinel & Enterprise reports.
A bill filed by Democratic Party Senator Jennifer Flanagan, has the support of state lottery officials and seeks to permit the Lottery to conduct an online lottery.
"We are not proposing to offer these games to our players with an actual cash transaction, nor are we seeking any appropriation to fund such operations," Lottery Assistant Executive Director Beth Bresnahan told the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
"Rather in the interests of preserving and protecting the Lottery, we simply want to ensure that we have a solid understanding of the technology and logistics of online gaming should this market space become more competitive. Existing law does not permit us to conduct such experimentation."
Bresnahan told the News Service the current law prohibits online games even when no money is exchanged and the Lottery's foremost goal would be to experiment online and build an infrastructure to support an online platform where actual gaming could occur.
Revealing that the number of weekly bingo games has fallen from 280 to under 100, she said, "If we do not start to prepare for the future generation of lottery players we'll find ourselves with a smaller player base."
Both lawmakers and lottery officials are concerned at the impact on lottery revenues of the advent of land casinos in the state, and many feel that online gaming could eventually provide a new revenue stream to help the lottery survive.
The opposition to the Flanagan bill includes convenience shop owners who fear that online ticket sales will impact their businesses due to fewer ticket buyers entering their shops.
"Why try to fix something that isn't broken?" said Joseph Green, senior division manager of Tedeschi Food Shops, in addressing the hearing. He said the loss of revenue from Lottery players could cost jobs and claimed that the bill would authorise the use of credit cards for lottery products, which could contribute to problem gambling.
He was supported by Stephen Ryan, executive director of the New England Convenience Store Association.
However, Bresnahan said "a deliberative step is necessary" because there is a potential for a change in federal law that would only allow for existing online lotteries to be able to continue their online business.
This week's hearing occurred a little over a year after state Treasurer Steven Grossman's Online Products Task Force recommended entry onto the Internet (see previous InfoPowa reports).
"The Task Force recommends immediate implementation of a strategy that permits the Lottery to take interim steps to enhance its online and mobile presence, while studying and testing its business model further," the group wrote in its Dec. 13, 2012 report.
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