The term ‘omnibus legislation‘ has arisen several times in recent years, especially when it comes to US states considering an expansion into online gambling. The latest jurisdiction on the ‘omnibus’ wagon is Massachusetts, where legalizing internet gaming and daily fantasy sports (DFS) in an omnibus bill became a notable topic in 2015.
Last week, the first signs that the Bay State may be moving forward with that plan – or at least taking large steps in that direction – were highlighted by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which voted 4-0 in favor of appointing Chairman Steve Crosby to represent the Commission in a new panel that will study the prospects of regulating online gambling and DFS in a single piece of future legislation.
Massachusetts has made great headway in advancing its gambling industry in the last few years. The state approved casino licenses for numerous locations, saw the grand opening of Plainridge Park Slots Parlor in 2015, and is eagerly awaiting the launch of two Las Vegas-style, integrated resort casinos. These include the $1 billion MGM Springfield, expected to open in 2018, and the projected 2019 opening of the $2 billion Wynn Boston Harbor, currently under construction in Everett.
Committee to Study Online Gambling, DFS
The special committee, officially terms the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, was approved in August by Governor Charlie Baker. It will be led by Senator Eileen Donoghue, and will host its first meeting on November 1, 2016.
At Thursday’s Gaming Commission meeting, Crosby told his fellow board members that he hopes “this will be an opportunity for us to continue…the initiative that we’ve made about trying to come up with some omnibus legislation that will give the Legislature and then probably the Gaming Commission the tools to regulate all of online gaming.”
Fellow Commissioner Enrique Zuniga focused on the popularity of daily fantasy sports in the state, which is highlighted by the presence of Massachusetts-based DFS giant, DraftKings. The daily fantasy sports industry made a huge splash during the 2015-16 NFL season, leading several Mass lawmakers to call for regulation and taxation of the lucrative market taking place right in their back yard.
Zuniga expressed his suspicion that DFS is “going to get an uptick in terms of the attention with the football season starting,” asking that the special committee take a close look at daily fantasy sports in particular. On the other hand, the Commissioner also noted the importance of studying the online gambling industry as a whole, calling it an “intersection of play and gambling” over the world wide web.
The study will focus on the finer points of online gambling and DFS regulation, including “economic development, consumer protection, taxation, legal and regulatory structures, implications for existing gaming, burdens and benefits to the commonwealth and any other factors the commission deems relevant.”
Crosby is especially excited about this “unique” opportunity to present omnibus legislation, as it would be the first time any US state has taken a “really good omnibus approach” towards online gaming. New York passed DFS regulations earlier this year, three states have regulated online gambling markets, and others offer online lotteries, but none have yet to pass omnibus legislation.
Pennsylvania was on the cusp earlier this year with a plan to expand land-based slot machines, impose regulations for online gambling and daily fantasy sports, but those efforts have since stalled, and could easily fall flat before the month is out.