Will Massachusetts Online Lottery Happen Alongside Sports Betting?
If Massachusetts lawmakers are going to allow people to bet on sports online, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg says they should be able to buy Massachusetts Lottery tickets on the internet as well.
Following a Massachusetts Lottery Commission meeting in January, Goldberg told the State House News Service the Massachusetts Lottery needs the ability to sell existing products over the internet if it has any hope of continuing to generate close to $1 billion a year for local aid.
That’s particularly true if the state moves forward with sports betting legislation authorizing the launch of mobile sports betting apps. A move that would force the lottery to compete in a growing Massachusetts gambling industry, online and off:
“If sports betting is available online, the Lottery must be available online also. That’s the issue moving forward.”
Massachusetts online lottery pitch
Goldberg has been pushing Massachusetts lawmakers to allow online lottery sales for the past few years. In 2016, the Senate passed a bill authorizing online lottery sales 22-17. However, the House pretty much ignored it. Since then, Goldberg’s online lottery sales pitch has been brushed aside.
The fact is, legislators have been looking more closely at things like fantasy sports and online gambling instead.
Now, lawmakers seem poised to pass sports betting legislation of one form or another this year. Goldberg is hoping the lottery doesn’t get left behind.
Various Massachusetts senators and Gov. Charlie Baker introduced a variety of different bills ultimately looking to legalize and tax sports betting in January. Most include authorizing wagers on pro sports both online and at Massachusetts casinos.
All five bills will be assigned to a Senate committee for further study. However, six other states have passed sports betting legislation over the past year. Plus, others considering it. In fact, legal sports betting is as popular an issue as any, leading the Massachusetts Legislature to put it near the top of its agenda in 2019.
Goldberg is just hoping lawmakers will give the Massachusetts Lottery the opportunity to compete in this brave new online gambling world:
“Of course, we will hope to have a seat at the table. When everything is laid out — if sports betting is going online, we have more casinos and we have daily fantasy sports — in order for the Lottery to continue to deliver on its mission, it needs to have a level playing field.”
Online lottery and the Wire Act
However, Goldberg’s push for online lottery sales in Massachusetts may have hit a federal snag.
In January, the US Department of Justice released its latest opinion on the almost 50-year-old Wire Act. This new interpretation appears to reverse the DOJ’s 2011 opinion that the act only applies to sports betting. Of course, the 2011 opinion is exactly what led several states outside of Massachusetts to launch online lottery sales.
Goldberg was in Washington for a legislative conference. She told the State House News Service she is also planning to meet with members of the state’s congressional delegation to discuss how the opinion might affect the possibility of online lottery sales in Massachusetts:
“After reviewing this opinion, I am concerned about the impact it will have on the Massachusetts Lottery and on lotteries across the country.”
“This issue will be part of our discussions with the Legislature as they tackle sports betting and online lottery this session. We are taking a proactive approach and working with the Attorney General’s office and meeting with congressional members during the NAST Legislative Conference to address the implications of this opinion.”
In the meantime, numerous state governments and the lottery and casino industries are lining up in opposition to the opinion. Most are asking for the DOJ to either rescind it or refrain from taking any enforcement actions based on it.