Lottery monitoring Draft Kings, but not feeling any impact

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BOSTON — Massachusetts Lottery officials have not noticed any change in business due to the increasing prominence of online fantasy sports games like Draft Kings, but are “continuously monitoring” the situation.

“We haven’t seen any type of impact as far as revenues go. In general, our understanding is that it is a fundamentally different player than the type we usually capture,” Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the News Service.

“I think no one has been able to escape the advertisement. It’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, so it’s raising a lot of attention. We are monitoring whether or not it will have some type of an impact.”

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is reviewing the Boston-based fantasy sports website Draft Kings, which offers fantasy drafts in a number of sports and the opportunity to win cash prizes — a feature the company maintains is a legal, skill-based prize, rather than illegal sports wagering.

Last week, Beacon Hill lawmakers heard testimony on bills calling for the Massachusetts Lottery to launch online games and authorizing the Lottery to run a website featuring online skill games, including fantasy sports and poker.

Lottery overseer and state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, when asked Tuesday if she would be open to a Lottery-operated online gaming program, said “it’s very premature to even be considering that” and said her focus is on maximizing the Lottery’s profits and getting that money to cities and towns across the state.

While Lottery vendors expressed concerns that online games would pull customers away from their stores, Sen. Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury) said during the hearing that he felt his proposal (S 191) would allow the state to capture some of the millions of dollars spent annually on fantasy sports and other skill games.

“The future of gaming is before us, and it’s changing very, very quickly,” Rush said. “It’s important that we as the commonwealth grasp it, enhance the technology and move with it.”

Goldberg, who said she opposed online gaming during her campaign for treasurer, said things “haven’t evolved enough for us to be engaged in that conversation,” but noted that the landscape has changed.

“I think both the statewide discussion and the national discussion need to evolve because certain dynamics out there are pushing the envelope and I think that’s a good thing,” she said. “I think the more people that are involved in this, maybe we can come up with some standards of operation.”

Sweeney noted that online gaming is still “a very new concept for the average member of the public” and said he expects the federal government to re-examine online gaming.

“I think we’re still a long way off from any type of clarity,” he said. “There is some discussion about what’s going to be allowed, what type of format it is going to take and also, for state lotteries, the concept of an online industry is certainly new and there are obviously technological challenges that go along with it.”

— Written by Colin A. Young

Copyright State House News Service