Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General, refused to let Massachusetts residents vote on a bill to regulate online poker in the state. Coakley said that, as long as she is in office, all online casinos, online poker rooms and other forms of online gambling would remain illegal.
Coakley served as the District Attorney of Middlesex County in Massachusetts from 1999 until 2007, when she became Attorney General. She announced last week that she plans to run for US Senate, to fill the spot vacated by the death of former Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy. Many people questioned whether or not her decision to run for Senate would effect her actions as Attorney General. Coakley responded to these questions by saying that her decision will have no adverse effect on her position. “I will stay involved,” she said in the Boston Herald. “I have been and will remain involved in the major decisions in office.”
However, many critics have said that Coakley’s decision to prevent the online poker vote may have a little to do with her decision to run for US Senate. Online casino gaming and gambling is a hot topic right now in the United States government with key figures like New Jersey Senator Menendez and House Representative Barney Frank introducing legislation to legalize and regulate online casinos and online poker sites. There seem to be just as many strong opponents of legalizing online casinos and online poker as there are proponents who want to ban it. Was Coakley being an opportunist with the decision to refuse the vote in order to get her stance out there?
Attorney General Coakley spoke with the Poker Players Alliance regarding her decision to refuse citizens to vote on the matter of legalizing online poker. She told them that their measure, which would allow online poker players to play online provided the server and operator are located in Massachusetts, was not written in proper form for the ballot. Coakley said that the way the bill was worded made it unclear whether the state would be able to impose a 5% tax on online poker deposits or not.
There is currently no state law in Massachusetts regarding online gambling. However, on the website of Coakley’s office it is written that all online gambling—including online casinos, online poker rooms, and other forms of gambling—are considered illegal.
Contention on the legalization of online casino gaming and online gambling is nothing new. There is currently legislation on the table all over the world regarding the legalization of online gambling games such as online blackjack, casino roulette, baccarat, craps, casino slot machines, video poker and more. There are many people like Coakley, including conservative Republicans and religious groups, who are strongly against online casino gambling. However, there are also many who back the legalization of online gambling. It will be interesting to see which side wins.