Lawmakers in the Massachusetts House moved one step closer to legalizing casino resorts in the state. One of the more overlooked portion of the bill the House passed, however, is the creation of a commission to determine whether online gambling would be a viable option.
The Internet gambling debate has been heating up all across the US. The federal laws prohibit financial institutions from processing transactions to and from Internet gaming sites. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is the law that prohibits these transactions, but the law, by many legal accounts, is vague.
Language in the UIGEA that is not vague asserts that online gambling is legal within an individual states borders. That means that if a state such as Massachusetts wants to regulate Internet gambling, they can do so as long as all the betting takes place within their borders.
Massachusetts is just one of a handful of states that is exploring the possibility of regulating online poker. Already, Nevada and New Jersey legislators have passed bills authorizing online gambling. In Nevada, the legislation stipulates that federal laws must change before the state can move forward with online poker or casino games. New Jersey lawmakers had their bill vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.
With the Massachusetts House passing the online gambling legislation last week, the Senate will now weigh in on the bill. It is less likely the Senate will pass the legislation, but it is attached to a bill that Senate President Therese Murray has already endorsed.
Even if the Senate passed the bill, it would likely take some time before Massachusetts residents would be permitted to gamble from the comfort of their own homes. As will be the case with the land-based gaming industry that is being created in Massachusetts, a regulatory commission would have to be set up, and licenses would have to be bid on over the next year.
The reason behind much of the debate over gambling is tough economic times. Revenue from online poker could bring hundreds of millions of dollars into not only the Massachusetts budget, but state budgets across the US. New Jersey state Senator Raymond Lesniak has claimed that online gambling could bring upwards of $1 billion annually to the state.