It looks like the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission (MSLC) may be taking the “if you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em” stance when it comes to online gaming. In late December, the MSLC issued a Request for Information (RFI), inviting (preferably) qualified companies to submit proposals with ideas for how the Lottery can increase its presence in the online gaming space.

The summary of the RFI is as follows:

The Massachusetts State Lottery Commission (“MSLC”) is issuing this Request for Information to solicit information regarding the possible purchase of adaptable software or the purchase of customized software/systems for electronically expanding offerings by the MSLC. MSLC seeks to receive information about potential iLottery systems and/or software, the implementation of new game offerings through online and/or mobile venues, gaming systems that allow for cross-pollination between online applications and physical retailer space and any other progressive gaming opportunities that may be available.

The “new game offerings” would not necessarily be limited to lottery games.

“We believe the introduction of a fantasy sports platform at Mass. Lottery would help to embrace an emerging market while continuing to protect our retail partners,” Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the State House News Service. “This particular type of game would not cannibalize our existing products. It would obviously be a new product. It would help us to engage what we would refer to as a ‘next-generation’ player and hopefully it would also help Lottery to create a new revenue source as opposed to eroding or maintaining existing offers.”

The RFI does not specifically mention online poker, but it does not rule it out, saying that respondents are encouraged to suggest anything, even if it is not “expressly covered by direct inquiries made within this RFI.”

Though as poker enthusiasts, we certainly take issue with the lottery as a state-encouraged form of gambling, it is a bit refreshing to hear someone involved with the lottery actually make reasonable statements about other forms of gambling. The MetroWest Daily News reported that MSLC Treasurer Deborah Goldberg thought a lottery-run fantasy sports site would be a good idea, as it would attract a new demographic to the MSLC’s offerings. As she said, the core audience of fantasy sports are technologically-savvy 25-to-45-year-old males “who are not Lottery players (and) who are extremely excited by sports-related fantasies.”

Out of touch lottery executives are often opposed to online poker because they are afraid that if people can play poker on the internet from home, they won’t venture out to the local convenience stores to buy lottery tickets (which reminds me: Powerball is at $400 million this week – maybe I should actually spend a buck on a ticket). What they fail to realize is that there is little overlap between lottery players and poker players. Goldberg seems to understand this, though in regards to fantasy sports.

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