Online gaming regulations considered

State House News Service
Published: 7/25/2017 9:30:42 PM

Industry officials and a lawmaker cried foul Tuesday over a commission’s recommendation that the Legislature legalize daily fantasy sports but lump the contests into a broad definition of “online gaming,” a categorization they said could stunt the industry’s growth.

After studying the landscape of online games, fantasy sports and eSports, a panel of lawmakers, lawyers and industry representatives on Tuesday recommended that the Legislature broadly define “online gaming” and permanently legalize daily fantasy sports (DFS) as online gaming, but hold off on sanctioning other forms of online gambling for now. Lawmakers unfamiliar with the evolving online gaming world have looked to the commission to recommend policy options.

The Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports released a draft of its report Tuesday but voted to delay a vote on acceptance of its report until Monday, July 31 to allow members more time to review findings and recommendations.

Among those recommendations is that lawmakers should write a comprehensive definition of “online gaming” to include DFS and encompass the ever-changing world of online gaming. The report also calls on lawmakers to “work to balance regulation with innovation and develop a robust framework as to how all online gaming should be governed, taxed, and regulated generally.”

But the commission stops short of recommending that the state expand what forms of online gaming can legally be offered in Massachusetts.

“At this time, the Special Commission recommends legalizing DFS as a subset of online gaming and enacting legislation that would put into law the proposed regulatory, governance, and taxation system described above,” the report states.

Industry officials took issue with the recommendation that DFS should be defined as online gaming, arguing instead that DFS contests are games of skill that don’t fit in with other forms of online 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.’ No other state in the country has characterized fantasy sports this way,” said James Chisholm, director of public affairs for DraftKings. “DraftKings is proud to call Boston and Massachusetts home. We have more than 300 employees from 79 cities and towns across the state, and while we are committed to growing and innovating here, this provision, if adopted, could impact our ability to do that.”

In a 2016 economic development law, “fantasy contests” were deemed legal, clearing up what had been something of a gray area. But the legal authority for fantasy contests is set to expire July 31, 2018, so the same law created the commission to help chart the best course forward and to investigate other online gaming like eSports.


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