State Treasurer Considers Legalizing Online Poker

By Sarah Birnbaum

Sept. 13, 2011

Jeff Markley, Vice President of Online Operations, Bluff Media, peruses Full Tilt, Bodog and Poker Stars online on three screens in his office at Bluff in Atlanta in 2006. At the time, Internet gamblers in the U.S. were withdrawing money from online games, since Congress approved a ban on banks doing business with the sites. (AP)

BOSTON — Momentum may be growing behind efforts to legalize online poker in Massachusetts. State Treasurer Steve Grossman’s Office is considering plans to legalize online poker for state residents.

Treasurer Grossman is assembling a task force to look into the complex jurisdictional issues that could be raised, and he plans to hire a consultant to walk his office through them.

Many forms of online gambling technically have been illegal in the United States since 2006, when Congress banned gambling across state lines. But lawmakers in some states, including California and Nevada, are trying to get around the ban by restricting gambling activity by their residents to operations located within the state. And it's not hard for gamblers to access sites that originate outside the U.S.

Some in Congress, like Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, say its time to revisit the issue. Treasurer Grossman says the state should be prepared for changes.

"If the federal government says yes you can do it, either on an intrastate level or full online poker, we want to be ready for that. We want to be talking to other states, we want to be talking to other organizations," Grossman said.

He also says the task force will consider the best possible approaches for bringing online poker to Massachusetts.

"Let’s assume that online gaming is approved by the federal government. Then the question becomes how does Massachusetts do it? Does the lottery do it in a regional group? Do we do it in a public private partnership with a private company? Any and all of those options…those are all the things we’re going to consider," Grossman said.

Meanwhile, Norfolk state Representative Dan Winslow has proposed an amendment to the Massachusetts casino gambling bill that would allow the state to sell five licenses for online gambling websites.  The debate on the casino bill is expected to start Wednesday.

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