A special legislative commission tasked with coming up with recommendations about online gambling has issued its final report to members of the Massachusetts legislature.
A divided nine-member commission recommended the state hold off for now on sanctioning online casino games while permanently legalizing daily fantasy sports and that it be regulated and taxed under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission – the same agency that oversees casinos and horse racing in the state.
The report drew the ire of Massachusetts-based DraftKings, which insists its customers are playing a game of skill and not gambling.
DraftKings spokesman James Chisholm, in a statement, urged House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and Governor Charlie Baker to reject the commission’s recommendations on daily fantasy sports, warning that it “could restrain our company’s ability to thrive and create jobs here in Massachusetts.”
Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, a member of the special legislative commission, voted for the final report.
" My personal opinion is that in Massachusetts skill versus chance has nothing to do with it," said Crosby. " Darts is a game of skill, but if you bet on it in Massachusetts it is illegal."
The legislature last year temporarily allowed Massachusetts residents to participate in paid fantasy sports contests. Attorney General Maura Healey issued regulations under consumer protection laws that prohibited players under age 21 and banned contests on college sports.
Three members of the legislative commission voted against the final report, including Gov. Baker’s designee. Healey’s representative abstained because he objected to the report’s conclusion that legalization of online poker and other such games is “inevitable.”
The special commission recommended the economic impact of the two resort casinos currently under construction in the state be assessed before jumping into online gambling.
The MGM Springfield casino is scheduled to open in September 2018 and the Wynn Boston Harbor casino is slated to open in 2019.
Crosby said it is anybody’s guess how legalized online gambling might impact the brick and mortar venues.
" Online things are disruptive technologies for lots of other things," said Crosby.
Crosby said MGM and Penn National, which operates the state’s slots machine-only casino in Plainville, are interested in hosting online gambling while Wynn has no interest in doing so.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said he believes physical casinos can coexist with virtual ones.
" We think we can pair ( online gambling) with a brick and mortar experience," said Mathis. " We are going to continue to study it."
The commission’s report was silent on whether the legislature should allow the Massachusetts Lottery to sell its products online.
Lottery officials say it is necessary to reverse declining sales.
Although sales were off from the previous fiscal year, the Massachusetts Lottery reported a record $1 billion net profit for fiscal year 2017.