Massachusetts Gambling Bill Criminalizes Online Poker



The latest version of a bill licensing gambling in Massachusetts once again includes a measure criminalizing internet gambling and online poker. Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo is calling for a vote on the measure, which he introduced on Thursday, in two weeks.

Luckily for online poker players in the Commonwealth, a bevy of groups and individuals have come out against the bill, including Governor Deval Patrick, according to the Boston Globe. DeLeo does not plan to hold a public hearing on his legislation, leading Patrick to tell the Boston media outlet, “I know people have thought about these issues before, but it’s a very important decision for the Commonwealth. There are people who have strong feelings on all sides of it and we should do our work here out in the open. We should have a hearing and let people make their case.”

DeLeo countered that hearings have already been held on the topic and “everything has been studied thoroughly.” As part of the bill, two Massachusetts casino licenses will be issued, each with a price tag of $100 million. In addition, four slot machine licenses will be awarded for $15 million each. A bundle of jobs would be created and “gambling revenue would be directed toward community colleges, tourism programs, schools, and the state’s rainy day fund,” according to the Globe. In addition, the Massachusetts police force would be expanded to oversee the new industry.

Scaring online poker players and internet gambling aficionados in Massachusetts is text found on page 123 of the 172-page bill. It reads, “Any person who knowingly transmits or receives a wager of any type by any telecommunication device, including telephone, cellular phone, internet, [or] local area network… or knowingly installs or maintains said device or equipment for the transmission or receipt of wagering information shall be punished.” The penalty is a hefty one, up to two years behind bars and a fine of up to $25,000.

The aforementioned text applies to “any person who, from within the Commonwealth, transmits a wager to, or receives a wager from, another person or gaming establishment within or outside of the Commonwealth.” The only exemption to the rule is law enforcement officials policing internet gambling. Among those purportedly backing the measure are the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

An ongoing squabble over the introduction of slot machines may be the ace in the hole for online poker players. The Globe quoted Patrick as saying that slot machines do not provide job opportunities like full-fledged casinos do. Slot machines would be introduced at four racetracks in Massachusetts, which employ a combined 664 people. DeLeo worries that the tracks will close if new slot machine revenue is not provided.

On poker forums like TwoPlusTwo, speculation grew as to why DeLeo’s legislation would criminalize online poker in a similar fashion to the state of Washington. Poster “bluemage55” noted, “The B&M casinos of Massachusetts want to cut down on competition with online gambling. That’s why you see it as an add-on to casino bills: the same people who advocate for casinos are against online gambling.” Also weighing in was “Scary_Tiger,” who hypothesized, “If the owners of Chili’s threw enough money at politicians, could they make eating at T.G.I. Friday’s a felony? Just seems crazy.”

In February, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the poker industry’s main lobbying voice, testified in front of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies to urge classifying poker as a game of skill. The PPA boasts more than 25,000 members in Massachusetts and a similar presentation by the grassroots organization took place last October.

The Boston Herald called DeLeo’s legislation “merely the starting point.” The Commonwealth would reap 25% of the casino revenue and 40% of the slot machine revenue derived from the bill. Read the full text of DeLeo’s Massachusetts gambling legislation.

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19 Comments

RealZionKid

Also weighing in was “Scary_Tiger,” who hypothesized, “If the owners of Chili’s threw enough money at politicians, could they make eating at T.G.I. Friday’s a felony? Just seems crazy.”

Fcking Brilliant!


john

Seems like a fair compromise; we want to injects billions into your economy and creates thousands in jobs in return you make online gambling illegal. It’s difficult to predict who is going to win the battle; however the internet gambling community is a minority and as the general public does not engage in IG will not care and ultimately the favor is for the bill as is.


PokerFacist

Okay, checking the commonwealth of Mass-ass off the list. Another state in which to never live or do business in if you play poker.


Annie Nonemus

So if the online poker players are a minority, why go to all the trouble to outlaw an activity that is of interest to only a handful of citizens? Why set the stage to have to spend untold millions investigating, charging, convicting and imprisoning a small fraction of the population? If ‘Joe 6Pack’ goes to jail, he loses his job, his family goes on welfare as does he when he gets out because he’s a felon and can’t get a job … all because he can’t afford to travel to a B&M casino and drop hundreds of dollars at a time and instead wants to from the comfort of his own home play a couple of $1.10 S&Gs after a long day.

I’m sure this legislation will be as effective as all the other morals laws the US loves to enact … look at how they’ve eliminated drinking, drugs, prostitution, teenage sex, homosexuality and gambling in general.

The ‘general public’ had better wake up to the fact that their rights and freedoms are being slowly but surely taken away by special interest groups and greedy politicians who don’t give a tinkers damn about the public.


Joe

About time. This needs to pass IMMEDIATELY. On-line poker sites (such as Full Tilt Poker and Ultimate Bet) are run by criminals. There is no such thing as a fair poker game for U.S. players on these sites.

I can not wait for Uncle Sam to hit back at these criminals. Write your local leaders and DEMAND this be passed!


Anti-Joe

Joe,

Just becuase you can’t win a hand of poker does not mean they are run by criminals. Unless of course you have some proof. Do you?


Cotton Mather

I know this is a pro-poker site and so my comments will not be popular, but this bill needs to pass. But
only if it is amended to prohibit ALL poker. It’s just as dangerous with cards as it is electronically. It
corrupts the minds of our children. People who play poker should be sent to jail until they are rehabilitated.


Fred

What is unclear to me is whether or not those who run online casinos — whether or not in Massachusetts — will also be guilty of a crime and in danger of a $25,000 fine and 2 years in jail.

If so, it’s just more hegemony these little fiefdoms try to foist upon the world.

And I think it’s particularly sick that Massachusetts would try to cash in on something of this nature. Then again, I have another phrase for it — the “Stupid Tax” — where only those stupid enough to play will be taxed.

Gambling should be free and unregulated. If someone is dumb enough to throw all their money at the slots, why should anyone bother trying to stop them? Stupid is what stupid does, and a fool and his money will…


Junior Barnes

This banning of online poker in this state is just a waste of time any money as it is UNENFORCEABLE. Even IF all of the ISPs in Mass were willing to turn over records as to who was accessing online gambling sites, there is a simple way around this. Once would only need to set up a vpn tunnel to a location outside of the state (~$5.00-10.00 per month). Pass all internet traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel and not even the ISP would have a way of knowing where you went.

There should be a federal law that says all politicians must consult with a geek before attempting to pass laws concerning the internet.


loser

how will they know where i log in from?


John

Cotton Mather, it is painfully obvious that you really do not have any idea what you’re talking about. The main purpose of this bill is to allow 2 casinos to be built, and to permit slot machines to be installed at 4 racetracks.


Bribes

Maybe DeLeo should disclose his campaign contributions. All these games will be computerized, so how many IT people will be employed to reboot them when they crash? When gambling was introduced in Oregon, the profit was supposed to be used to fund schools. Interesting that they still have issues funding schools years later and more and more get closed all the time.


Chris

@loser – They subpoena your ISP which has records proving it was you. The ISP is pretty powerless in this instance and will hand over the records.

@Junior Barnes – No doubt, I suspect the next generation of politicians will spend their time repealing the nonsensical laws passed by today’s old fart politicians who probably don’t even know what Windows is.


Mike

Currently online gambling is illegal in MA. If you bet online in MA you are breaking the law. If the casino bill passes gambling becomes legal, and without that provision, so does online gambling. Why would a casino developer pay the state 100 million dollars for a license to have a casino, then build a casino if they could suddenly open an online casino in the state legally, without paying the state?

Also most people don’t pay state taxes on the profits they make betting online. Sure you are supposed to pay taxes on money you make illegally, but then agian you aren’t supposed to be making the money in the first place.


Edward

Street gangs running wild and this guy wants to prosecute poker players BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!


Bob

So can we still play in MA until the law is passed?


Jack

This is completely absurd. It’s not just that poker is a long-term game of skill. The whole idea of the government controlling what I do with my money while simultaneously selling lottery tickets is repulsive.

Plus, this will just lead to poker played in illegal and dangerous ways… probably locking up very smart people with a bright future… like a lot of the kids in my dorm at Harvard. Poker should not be a crime. The very notion reaks of hypocrisy and stupidity.


Jack

“I know this is a pro-poker site and so my comments will not be popular, but this bill needs to pass. But
only if it is amended to prohibit ALL poker. It’s just as dangerous with cards as it is electronically. It
corrupts the minds of our children. People who play poker should be sent to jail until they are rehabilitated.”

Really and how has my poor mind been corrupted by playing an interesting and challenging game online at stakes I can afford? I’m also a Class A chess player and I don’t think you’re arguing that chess corrupts the mind too. What is it about poker that makes it so evil? Your opinion is irrational and ignores the many benefits of playing poker. Alarmist crap…


jerkin it off

this is halarious 2yrs in prison for playing online poker hahahaha really and all because you cant regulate it soo you outlaw it? maybe you should outlaw ebay and all auction sites people are making money there and competing against other people for goods right? Is that skill or luck?

Seriously people are just soo fucking greedy I bet if people started eating oak leafs in their back yard the government would crimilize it because they are not making any money off it.


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