Boston Globe Pens Op-Ed Opposing Potential Online Gambling Bill

One week after reporting on the possible introduction of online gambling legislation in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe published an op-ed opposing the idea.

On March 26, the newspaper published a piece documenting comments made recently by various state lawmakers appearing in front of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to discuss online gambling.

Those legislators, including Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster), were widely receptive to the idea of introducing legislation to regulate the iGaming industry within Massachusetts. As Flanagan explained, the state stands to benefit from staying ahead of the industry’s evolution:

“The online gaming world is evolving every day. It’s constantly changing with new products and new technology. We’re trying to stay on top of it. But it isn’t easy.”

Stephen Crosby serves as chairman of the five-member commission, which was created last year to successfully implement the state’s Expanded Gaming Act of 2011. During the commission’s most recent public hearing, Crosby sided with Flanagan and her peers within the statehouse by laying bare the clear justifications for iGaming regulation:

“There’s billions of dollars being gambled online now. Whether online gaming will come to dominate the overall gaming industry remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a significant part of the industry. It’s already here.”

The question is whether we in Massachusetts want to take it out of the shadows, regulate it, and take a piece of the action.”

Although an actual iGaming bill – one similar to those currently under consideration by regional neighbors like New York and Pennsylvania – is far from being introduced, the editorial board of the Boston Globe opted to pen an op-ed criticizing the idea.

That piece, published on April 2, presented several arguments that are regularly used by iGaming detractors. Namely, the newspaper claimed that online casinos and slot parlors represent an entirely new form of gambling; online platforms offer none of the ancillary benefits afforded by brick and mortar casinos; and the iGaming industry preys on young people to boost its player base.

The editorial board also linked potential iGaming legislation to the state’s 2011 approval of land-based casino venues, opining that Massachusetts would be best served by focusing on that segment of the gambling market:

“Online gambling also yields none of the ancillary benefits that supporters of legalized gambling promised when the state legalized casinos in 2011. Nobody books a hotel room to play online poker, or goes to a show between stints at an online slot machine.”

These claims don’t align with the experiences of states like Nevada and New Jersey, where legalized online gambling has served as a supplement to existing brick and mortar casino operations.

David Satz, senior vice president of government relations Caesars Entertainment, attested to that fact in March, while appearing in front of a joint hearing of Pennsylvania’s legislature. There, Satz told lawmakers that the company’s experience in New Jersey has been mutually beneficial, with its land-based casino enjoying a surge in patronage based on new online players.

The op-ed also quoted Les Bernal, national director of the national anti-gambling lobby group Stop Predatory Gambling, who claimed that online casinos target underage gamblers:

“Young people aren’t going to brick-and-mortar casinos, which should be a good thing! This whole effort is about getting an entire new generation of youngsters hooked on gambling.”

Bernal’s inclusion was a curious choice for the Boston Globe editorial board, which found space within its op-ed to praise Massachusetts’ state-run online lottery program.

In March of 2015, while speaking at a hearing in front of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bernal drew criticism from both sides by criticizing state-owned lottery programs as prime motivators of the ballooning budget deficits plaguing several states.

The state’s Gaming Commission is expected to release its findings on potential iGaming legislation sometime this summer.