It was reported today that it is highly unlikely that Massachusetts will become the 4th state to legalize online gaming, behind New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. In fact, I’d be surprised if it ever happens at all. And given Massachusetts’s track record over the past few years in trying to bring brick & mortar casinos to life in the Bay State, this is probably a good thing.
Let’s look at how we got to where we are. After much debate about casino gambling in Massachusetts, and a failed vote on Beacon Hill about 6 years ago, the Expanded Gaming Law was passed and signed in to law by Governor Patrick on November 22nd 2011. Since that time a dozen applicants, at a rate of $400,000 per application, rushed to compete for one of the three licenses for full blown resort casinos, and one slot parlor. Not until February 27th of 2014 was the slot parlor winner announced for the Plainridge Harness Racing track in Plainville. Along the way we’ve had missed deadlines, the finding of Caesars Entertainment, the largest gaming company in the world, “unsuitable” for licensing in the already voter approved Suffolk Downs proposal, hints of impropriety as a former associate of Chairman Stephen Crosby was involved in the land sale to the competing Wynn Resorts proposal across the river, and a compact between the state and the Mashpee Wampanoag’s rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for being too favorable to Massachusetts (which has since been approved after several pot sweetening edits).
With so much delay, doubt and uncertainty associated with the process of awarding these licenses, the idea that Massachusetts should be ready and able to tackle the much more convoluted world of online gaming is preposterous. We already missed the boat, by at least a decade, on the maximum potential windfall of land based casinos due to the proliferation of them in neighboring states and a weakening economy, let’s not spin our wheels chasing online revenues we are not competent enough to vet.