Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Show Signs of Hope for Internet Gaming

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Many reports from the online gambling industry in the United States of late have indicated that states are waiting to see the outcome of others. States such as Louisiana, Mississippi and even California have indicated in some way that they will not act on Internet gambling this year. Instead they have chosen to observe the likes of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware for results in the meantime.

Pennsylvania has been on the list of possibilities recently, however, and a budget deficit may encourage action quicker than expected. Massachusetts has suddenly been encouraged to consider online gaming by its lottery officials. Both states have the potential to move forward with studies, if not actual legalization, in 2014.

Budget Could Force Pennsylvania’s Hand

Legislators in Pennsylvania have gone back and forth with online gaming for more than a year, even going so far as to issue a study on the industry and what it could mean for the state. But most recent reports indicate that there would be no movement until experts have had more time to analyze the results coming out of New Jersey; yet that may be changing. reported last week that there is a chance to push online gaming more quickly due to the negative aspects of the state’s budget forecast. The news outlet reported that the legislature and Corbett administration are expected to “seriously consider a proposal to expand lottery gambling and, possibly, one to legalize online gambling.”

Some legislators, and even Governor Corbett, have expressed concerns about the spread of gambling that will create more addiction problems and prey on the weaker and poorer of the state. Despite that, louder voices are continuing to advocate for legalized online gaming as a revenue booster for land-based casinos as well as Pennsylvania’s coffers. Even though New Jersey’s revenue from the industry is lower than expected, the possibilities for growth are obvious and encouraging.

Massachusetts Already Experimenting

It was a bit of a surprise last week when the State House News Service reported via the Sentinel and Enterprise that Massachusetts State Lottery officials asked lawmakers to allow experimentation with online gaming operations. State Senator Jennifer Flanagan then filed a bill that would make it official.

There are limitations within this proposal, though. There would be no real-money gaming at this time. The purpose of the move is to conduct some testing in order to get a better handle on the industry. Lottery Assistant Executive Director Beth Bresnahan told legislators that they “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.”

The expanding market space presumably includes New Jersey and Delaware, as well as nearby Pennsylvania that is considering entering the industry. The option to experiment will also help keep the lottery up to speed with that of competing lotteries.

Soon after this news was released, Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas submitted a statement to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The gist of the letter was to include online poker in SB 101 so that benefits of the game could be seen as an option for the state going forward.

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