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Massachusetts gambling panel latest to mull fantasy sports

MGN Online

Gambling regulators in Massachusetts said Wednesday that they would wade into the debate over fantasy sports websites, even as the state's attorney general continued a separate review of the industry.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which licenses and regulates casino gambling and horse racing, announced that it would begin a discussion of the issues surrounding fantasy sports at its next meeting on Oct. 29.

The commission plans to address whether the sites which include Boston-based DraftKings are legal, if they should be regulated and if so, who should be the regulator, said Stephen Crosby, chairman of the five-member panel.

Crosby described the assessment as a "first conversation," and noted that any final decisions on how to oversee the industry would rest with the Legislature, Gov. Charlie Baker and perhaps the state courts.

"I believe the commission will be able to provide constructive advice on the complex issues raised by the meteoric emergence of online fantasy sports," Crosby said in a statement.

Attorney General Maura Healey, who earlier began a review of the fantasy sites, told The Boston Globe on Tuesday that her intention was not to shut down the sites, but ensure they are fair.

She said the state has no laws that explicitly bar the games, so her evaluation will focus on consumer protection.

During an appearance Wednesday on Boston Herald Radio, Healey said she would examine, among other things, the accuracy of disclosures the companies make to customers, the kind of marketing they do and how they are treated for tax purposes.

"This is an issue that cries out for a regulatory legal framework and structure that will match the modern reality of what is happening here," she said.

Massachusetts is one of at least nine states looking into regulating fantasy websites in some way.

Healey said the decision by Nevada that the sites could not operate in that state without a gambling license was a "reasonable suggestion and approach," and something her office might examine. But she also stressed that it would be up to the governor and Legislature to act on any recommendations made.

DraftKings said in a statement that Healey was taking a "reasoned and measured approach" to the business.

Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel contend their sites aren't gambling, are legal, and were exempted from a federal online gambling prohibition in 2006.

State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, one of the principal architects of the 2011 law that legalized casino gambling and created the gaming commission, applauded the panel's decision to step into the ongoing debate.

Recommendations that emerge from the various reviews "will provide the legislature with a framework to how we go about crafting common sense regulations for this new industry to protect consumers," Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said in a statement.

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