In shift, Goldberg now in talks about lottery fantasy sports venture

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STATE HOUSE — Marking a departure from past comments on the issue, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg told the Boston Herald on Tuesday that it is time for the Massachusetts Lottery to dip a toe into the world of daily online fantasy sports.

In the wake of allegations that employees of sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have used inside information to boost their jackpots, Goldberg said the Lottery is working on developing a state-run online fantasy sports website.

“While we choose not to comment on recent allegations against daily fantasy sports companies, there is clearly an appetite for this kind of game play,” Goldberg said in a statement Wednesday morning. “At the Lottery we operate under a comprehensive system of internal controls to protect game integrity, and we are currently having discussions on how to offer this new format in a venue that protects the consumer and preserves fundamental fairness within the game.”

Two weeks ago, Goldberg told the News Service “it’s very premature to even be considering” Lottery-operated online gaming and said things “haven’t evolved enough for us to be engaged in that conversation.”

On Tuesday, the treasurer told the Herald, “So it would behoove us … to be looking at what’s out there and how it might work and why we might be better.”

She added, “You don’t want to be 20 years from now and say, ‘Gee wee missed the market.'”

In her statement Wednesday morning, Goldberg noted that any foray into the world of online fantasy sports games would likely require the passage of a bill through the Legislature.

“We look forward to a partnership with the Legislature on the future of our involvement in this market,” she said in the statement.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is reviewing the Boston-based fantasy sports website DraftKings, 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.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Tuesday he’ll wait to learn Healey’s opinion about the legality of such businesses “and then decide whether it’s something that requires legislative action.”

DeLeo said he does not participate in fantasy football leagues but watches “a lot of football” and has seen the ads promoting potential fantasy sports winnings. “I think there’s a question quite frankly,” he said, adding, “I think it’s an issue.”

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Tuesday that he’s encouraged the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Goldberg to conduct research because of potential impacts on the Lottery.

Rosenberg added: “I’m not sure how you manage this because online, it can be anywhere in the world and as long as somebody’s got a way of paying – which is usually the credit card right – it’s really hard to figure out how individual states can manage the situation. But when we were working on the casino bills, we ran out of bandwidth and even though it was being raised at that time all we could do was to urge both the gaming commission and the treasurer to do the research on it and come up with policy recommendations.”

— Colin Young

Copyright State House News Service