Maura Healey: Yes, DraftKings and FanDuel Are Gambling

Welp. Now what?

Attorney General Maura Healey

Attorney General Maura Healey. Photo via AP

Attorney General Maura Healey made it clear to a gaggle of reporters on Wednesday that she believes daily fantasy sports games like DraftKings and FanDuel are indeed gambling.

Reporters caught Healey outside the New England Center for Homeless Veterans where she was on her way to serve lunch as part of a Veterans Day event. According to reports, Healey spoke with reporters for just six minutes on the issue of daily fantasy sports and the cease-and-desist order from the New York Attorney General that, as of right now, the online gambling companies appear to be strongly contesting.

“I think anybody looking at this acknowledges it’s a form of gambling. Just because it’s gambling doesn’t make it illegal. We play the stock market. There are all different ways in which gambling may happen. But you know we can debate chance versus skill, and the like. I think just as a pragmatic matter, I think it’s important to get beyond that. Let’s focus on the issues, let’s focus on protecting consumers, and let’s set out some really robust standards for how this industry should operate, if it’s going to operate here in this state,” said Healey, according to MassLive.

Healey pushed back against a possible shutdown of the online gambling sites, demonstrating the level of restraint shown by politicians who do not want to gain a reputation for crushing parts of the innovation economy in their infancy: “What I’ve said is that I’m not going to use a several hundred year old criminal statute that was written at a time when this kind of industry was never envisioned. I’d like to get beyond that and figure out for policy makers and lawmakers, what should be the rules of the road.”

Pushed for a take on what had happened for New York, Healey responded, “I can’t predict what is going to happen in the wake of the New York attorney general’s decision.”

She went on to say, “I can’t predict the course that these companies will take. But again, we’ve got to stay focused in our office on what are the kinds of legal and regulatory measures we want to have set in place so the public is protected here in Massachusetts.”

Healey did add that her office should have a report on the legality of daily fantasy sports out by the end of the year. A similar report from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is also expected to be complete before the end of the year.

Her receptiveness to the games is a noticeable change in tone for Healey, an outspoken opponent of gambling. Healey made her opposition to casinos a focal point of her 2014 campaign and has continued to speak out against casino gambling in various ways. In 2014, Healey blasted casino gambling in a post on the liberal Massachusetts blog BlueMassGroup. “I do not believe a modern economy that is focused on creating opportunities for every person can be built on gambling,” said Healey at the time.

A recent report from the national anti-gambling organization Stop Predatory Gambling concluded that daily fantasy sports games are actually much worse than the traditional brick and mortar casinos Healey so staunchly opposes. Stop Predatory Gambling described the online games as a gateway to gambling addiction due to their ability to provide instant gratification and easy accessibility.

Other lawmakers have voiced a similar note of tolerance for the games, saying that daily fantasy sports games should probably be treated like gambling and that their revenue should be taxed as such. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has suggested going even further and created a state-run version of the popular online gambling games.