Massachusetts Online Gambling Definition Excludes Poker and Could Hurt DFS

July 26th, 2017 | by Brian Corlisse

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) could soon fall under the watch of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, but poker and casino gaming won’t yet be classed as “online gaming.”

Massachusetts online gambling.

A new report could classify DraftKings as an online gambling site in Massachusetts. (Image: Getty Images)

A draft report released by the Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports has recommended that state legislature define DFS as “online gambling.”

If state’s Gambling Commission votes to accept the recommendations in the report, lawmakers would then be tasked with writing a comprehensive definition of “online gambling” and develop a future proof regulatory framework.

Tentative Steps Towards Online Gambling Regulation

Although DFS would be included in the new definition, other forms of gambling have been omitted from the report. In what appears to be a case of “walk before you can run,” the authors want to take an activity that’s already legal in the state, i.e. DFS, and make it a “subset” of online gambling.

This will come as something of a blow to online poker players in Massachusetts, but it doesn’t mean the possibility of future regulation is dead.

As outlined in the report, it’s suggested that the Gambling Commission and lawmakers “work to balance regulation with innovation and develop a robust framework as to how all online gaming should be governed.”

When the report is voted on by the Gambling Commission on July 31, it could potentially be the first step in regulating online poker within the state.

Assuming the new definition of online gambling works and a regulatory framework is established, it would allow poker to slot into the mix at a later date.

DFS Operators Hit Back

This, however, is dependent on a positive vote and, so far, DFS operators aren’t happy with the proposed plan. In a statement following the publication of the report, DraftKings’ director of public affairs, James Chisholm, railed against the idea that DFS is gambling.

“We fundamentally disagree with some of the recommendations in the Commission’s draft report, particularly its proposal to define fantasy sports as online gaming,” said Chisholm.

Echoing this sentiment, Peter Schoenke said that it has always been considered a game of skill and any other definition could cause problems for the industry at a federal level.

“If you do more research, if you try harder, if you have an innate ability to spot player trends and patterns, you win more often, and that’s a game of skill,” said the chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

As it stands, states such as New York define DFS as a “skill game” and that’s led to intrastate legislation. If Massachusetts was to go against the grain, it could leave the door open for federal lawmakers to challenge the legitimacy of this “skill” definition following the Massachusetts vote. 


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