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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Massachusetts Residents Look to Get Online Poker on 2010 Ballot

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If lawmakers won’t do it, masses of their constituents will. Some in Massachusetts know how the political system works and have launched an initiative to garner support for the regulation and taxation of internet poker in Massachusetts. The group of activists is reportedly led by Randall Castonguay, a 41-year old resident of the state who also holds the position of Massachusetts state director of the Poker Players Alliance.

The plan is to obtain enough signatures to secure a spot on the 2010 ballot for online poker legislation, which will require 66,593 unique names on the petition that must be submitted by December 7, 2009. State legislators then take the petition under advisement and have the option to order an additional 11,099 signatures to be obtained by July of 2010. The initial number is equal to 3 percent of all votes cast for the position of governor during the last election.

Castonguay believes that fellow members of the PPA will assist in the gathering of signatures, and while the actual process of obtaining the names will be difficult as it will take feet on the ground and volunteers willing to work long hours, the names are there to be gotten. The PPA has 35,000 to 40,000 dues-paying members in Massachusetts alone, and there are many others in the state who support the idea of legalized and regulated online poker. But before the process can begin, the state’s attorney general must approve the language of the petition, which is where the situation stands at the moment.

The petition is entitled “An Act Relative to Establishing Regulated and Taxed Internet Poker in Massachusetts” and contains provisions that would allow poker to be played on the internet within the borders of the state by players over the age of 21. Operators of poker websites would be required to be licensed, and any financial services providers for the transferring of funds would have to be approved by a commission that would oversee the statewide industry. There would also be processes put into place to identify individuals with “gambling addictions” and to detect any use of the services for money laundering. In addition, a tax of 5 percent on all deposits into poker accounts would be collected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the time the deposits are made.

The effective date of the law, should it pass, would be January 1, 2011, at which time the processes would begin to establish the framework for the industry and soon after begin accepting applications from online poker sites for licensing approval.

In the end, however, while the language is simple and support may be obtainable, there may be obstacles. There have been 30 petitions filed by 17 groups of activists already for the 2010 ballot with proposed laws or constitutional amendments. In addition to having to compete with those petitions for spots on the ballot, the Committee on Election Laws is reportedly looking to revise the ballot system with the creation of a state commission to analyze the fiscal consequences of each petition and impose stricter regulations on petition gatherers. More will be known about the committee after an upcoming hearing.

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