BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS) — A decision on whether or not to allow the Massachusetts Lottery to sell its products online is expected to be part of the Senate’s Thursday review of a $4.3 billion economic development package.
Senator Paul Feeney tabled an amendment (#527) which largely reflects the language adopted by the House in its own economic development bill last week. If the Senate were to pass the Feeney Amendment, the proposal would be cemented in legislation that looks likely to reach Governor Charlie Baker this month.
Authorizing the online lottery was not included in the bill when Senate leaders rolled it out this week. Like House language, Feeney’s amendment would remove the ban that prevents the Massachusetts Lottery from selling most of its products online. Citing increased competition for gambling dollars from casinos, daily fantasy sports and sports betting, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has been asking for that power for years.
“What we’ve seen is a shift in consumer behavior. Think about our own lives, especially in this pandemic of the past two years: you go to your phone now and order groceries, pick them up curbside; you go there and you order pizza tonight, you order dinner and you pick it up outside the restaurant; you go to Amazon and you order your office supplies, you do it on your phone. Still, you can’t buy a $5 scratch ticket or you can’t bet on the daily number,” Feeney said in April when he withdrew his online lottery amendment to the betting bill. Senate athletes. “What we’ve seen as consumer behavior shifts more and more towards this online presence is that we’re in a precarious balance, where a new generation of Massachusetts Lottery players may not be doing what many before they did and walk into a venue and buy a ticket..”
Feeney did not respond to a message from the press service on Tuesday asking about his online lottery authorization application. While the House has estimated that its online lottery language will raise around $200 million which it will allocate to a new fund for early education and care, Feeney’s amendment appears to address lottery revenue online in the same way as current lottery revenues, which are used for local aid. once the Lottery expenses have been covered.
The Senate has already supported the idea of online lottery products – the branch voted 22-17 in 2016 to add online lottery authorization to that year’s Economic Development Bill. In this case, the House did not agree and the provision did not survive conference committee talks. But the Senate has changed since then, with the bulk of the turnover involving senators supporting the online lottery in 2016.
There are 23 current senators who voted on the 2016 Online Lottery Amendment – 11 were in favor of it and 12 including Senate Speaker Karen Spilka, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodrigues and Majority Leader Cynthia Creem, opposed it. Unless some senators change their minds, the fate of the online lottery in the economic development bill could be decided by newcomers.
“Certainly, I am ready to hear from my colleagues and to hear the strengths, pros and cons,” Spilka told reporters on Monday. “Things are constantly changing, especially with something like an online lottery, so we’ll have discussions and we’ll get a sense of where members are at.”
The Senate plans to get into gear at 10 a.m. Thursday to get to work on the 631 edits submitted to the economic development bill.