Out of nowhere, Massachusetts has joined the race to become the first state in the country to offer safe, legal, regulated and taxed online poker. And if when when it happens, it might be open to anyone -- including out-of-state players.
There is much work to be done, but the effort at least has a champion -- a Republican, no less, who is a former judge.
"We will have actual legislation to vote on," says state Rep. Daniel Winslow, who represents the district in which Sen. Scott Brown lives. "Probably by summer of 2012."
Winslow, an unlikely booster of the right of residents to gamble online, used the debate about casino expansion in Massachusetts to attach an amendment that would have legalized online poker. "We were already talking about gambling," he said in an interview with Covers.com. "Why not talk about online gambling too?"
With the effort to pass enabling legislation for the construction of three major resort-style casinos finally in the red zone, leaders in the Mass. House apparently decided that online discussion might make things harder. So Winslow was persuaded to tap the brakes, and his revised amendment -- calling for a commission that is required to develop online poker legislation by next July -- easily passed.
So Massachusetts is now in the running with Iowa, Florida, New Jersey, California and the federal government to see who will be the first, perhaps of many, to finally allow online poker.
For his part, the colorful Winslow hardly fits the profile of a pro-gambling lawmaker. But like everyone else in elected office, he sees the potential for jobs. "High-tech jobs," he says. "The state is a breeding ground for the high-tech industry, and online poker will be one way to do that."
Under Winslow's original plan, the state would have five Internet portals for poker play. In addition to jobs, the state could rake in tax money. Win-win, according to Winslow.
Nothing definite, to be sure. But at least Massachusetts is in the hunt.