Massachusetts gaming regulators want to study the social casino site of their state’s first casino licensee, even though they’re not sure if the site falls under their purview.
On Tuesday, officials at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) invited execs at Penn National Gaming’s Plainridge Park Casino to a meeting to discuss the casino’s new free-play online casino, which is powered by Scientific Games’ Play4Fun Network.
The MGC’s interest in the HollywoodCasino.com site was sparked after the Boston Globe ran an article last week detailing concerns by problem gambling groups that the online free-play slots paid off more than Plainridge’s land-based slots, which these critics claimed was giving customers a false sense of optimism regarding their chance to win when playing with real money.
Penn National’s VP of public affairs Eric Schippers told the Globe that while the online free-play jackpots are higher, “as a percentage of spins, the winning experience is similar to the one at the casino.”
Nevertheless, the MGC wants to discuss the site with Penn National, and plans to invite so-called social gaming ‘experts’ and the state’s other casino licensees – MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts – to offer their own testimony. The MGC says it hopes to conduct the meeting sometime in May.
MGC chairman Stephen Crosby acknowledged that social gaming wasn’t on the MGC’s list of oversight duties but said it was his opinion that “everyone is well served by us starting out on what is the social gaming phenomenon and what are the range of issues.”
Massachusetts is currently wrestling with a host of 21st century gaming issues, including daily fantasy sports and other digital options. In January, the MGC suggested legislators might wish to consider introducing omnibus internet gaming legislation that would be “broad enough and flexible enough” to handle social gaming, real-money online gambling, eSports, prediction markets, sports betting and any other options that can be shoved down the internet’s vast series of tubes.