Jun 13, 2018, 10:01 pm
With time running out again on a bill that would authorize the Massachusetts Lottery to move online, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg offered a message to business leaders Wednesday morning: We don't want to go the way of Toys R Us.
The massive toy store chain announced plans to shut down its operations on March 15 and is now running liquidation sales across its more than 800 locations.
Goldberg, whose office oversees the Lottery, said Toys R Us was "very late to the game to beginning to sell their products on the Internet."
Speaking at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Forum, Goldberg described Internet sales as "the next step in modernizing the Lottery."
"We don't want to be late to the game," she said during the breakfast event held at the University of Massachusetts Club. "The way I articulate it to people is the last thing I want to be is Toys R Us. Going online is critical in continuing to maintain profits, stay relevant -- and when I talk profits, remember it's local aid."
On Wednesday, Bank of America Massachusetts President Miceal Chamberlain asked Goldberg how she thought sports betting and casinos would affect the Lottery.
"Sports betting is a concern," Goldberg said. "If you have sports betting, and casinos, and fantasy sports, and the Lottery does not go online, it will shortly become irrelevant. It's very straightforward."
The Legislature's Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee has until Friday to decide how to report on an online lottery bill (S 182), as well as bills dealing with horse racing and daily fantasy sports. Rep. Joseph Wagner, the committee's House chair, said last month he did not think the online lottery proposal "will get a favorable recommendation this year."
Last session, the House did not agree to an online lottery authorization that the Senate approved as part of a broader economic development bill.
Asked after her speech about the prospect of completing another legislative term without the online lottery bill advancing, Goldberg pointed to the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a federal sports betting ban and to the anticipated August opening of the state's first resort casino, MGM Springfield.
"I think it very much depends on, as the casino in Springfield opens and what results come from sports betting, we anticipate having a seat at the table, and that online will be looked at in the greater context of the way in which entertainment around these issues are evolving," she said.
Wagner has said he expects the House to take action next session on sports betting, after working this year to research the issue. After the court announced its decision, Goldberg said she "immediately reached out to Legislative leadership to ensure a seat at the table."
Goldberg, a Brookline Democrat who is running for reelection, told the News Service her strategy in advocating for online lottery will be to "keep on explaining the facts of life."
"I mean, these dollars are so critical to every community, and I think if you were to start to see a decline in allocations to the local communities, that's when local elected officials and members of the Legislature will start to say, 'Oh, wait a minute, we need to make sure this doesn't happen,'" she said.
Lottery profits, which are distributed to cities and towns as local aid, surpassed $1 billion for the first time in fiscal 2017. Goldberg told lawmakers in December that profits would likely dip back down below that mark to $968 million in fiscal 2018 and $965 million in fiscal 2019.
Goldberg is running unopposed in her party's primary and in the November election will face a challenge from Lakeville Republican Rep. Keiko Orrall.
Orrall said in May that the Lottery should be looking for ways to become an "active participant" in sports betting, calling it "an opportunity for us to boost local aid support for our cities and towns."
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