The Massachusetts House has passed a bill proposing the licensing of two casinos and up to 750 slot machines at each of the state's four racetracks...and importantly a clause banning online gambling in the state had been removed, thanks mainly to a high pressure mobilisation of the state's 25,000 poker players by the Poker Players Alliance.
The achievement represents a feather in the PPA's cap, illustrating the power of organised opposition.
Before reaching the final vote, which went 120 to 37 in favour of land casinos in Massachusetts, lawmakers passed an amendment that reads in part, "And move to further amend the bill by striking out, in lines 2695 to 2704, inclusive, the following words: (v) Any person who knowingly transmits or receives a wager of any type by any telecommunication device, including telephone, cellular phone, Internet, local area network, including wireless local networks, or any other similar device or equipment. shall be punished."
John Pappas, executive director of the PPA, said: "Of course, the PPA is very pleased that the House-passed gaming bill does not criminalise online poker, but I am even more proud of our members in Massachusetts who really stepped up to the plate on this issue and made their voices heard among the House lawmakers. This was grassroots at its finest."
Pappas added a note of thanks to Representative Brian Dempsey: "On behalf of poker players in Massachusetts and nationwide, I'd like to thank Representative Dempsey for his effort to remove the criminalisation language from the gaming bill, as well as Representative Brian Wallace for his continued support," said Pappas. "We will now focus our efforts on the Massachusetts Senate to include the skill language into the bill and to ensure the criminalisation provision stays out of the final package."
The main bill now heads to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future, reports the Boston Globe newspaper. Governor Deval Patrick and other senior politicians support the land casino concept but not slots at the tracks, which they argue will not create many new jobs.
Senator Stanley Rosenberg said it was too soon to predict the shape of the gambling legislation Senate leaders will craft but said unions, casino lobbyists, and gamblers will be pushing them to act. Senators plan to begin their deliberations with a series of closed-door meetings later this (April) month.
"The debate is now fully engaged as the House completes their action," Rosenberg said. "There will be a lot of pressure to move on the issue."
Anti-gambling activists are hoping the differences among senior politicians over the slot machines question could ultimately doom the bill. Some lawmakers and casino lobbyists predicted the issue will ultimately be resolved in a conference committee of House and Senate leaders this summer.
The Poker Players Alliance is also engaged in debate on Massachusetts House Bill 4069, a proposal by State Representative Brian Wallace that recognises poker as a skill game, and therefore exempts it from the constraints associated with state laws on gambling.
Source: InfoPowa News