BOSTON – A bill to allow online lottery gambling in Massachusetts has better odds of passing next year, according to state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.
Thin margins, the state's revenue needs and expected decreases to local aid may provide the necessary push, Goldberg said in an interview Wednesday at the sixth annual Massachusetts investor conference at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
A similar bill failed last year.
"I think that given that we're seeing not only flat profits, but potentially declines in some very key areas, the local community leaders are going to start paying a lot of attention to this," said Goldberg, a Democrat.
The lottery, which lawmakers established in 1971, is the commonwealth's largest source of unrestricted local aid. Localities decide how to spend the funds.
Speaking before lawmakers and state budget Director Kristen Lepore two days earlier at the State House, Goldberg said that the lottery's net profit for fiscal 2016 amounted to $989.4 million, up only 0.4% from the previous fiscal year. Without innovative growth measures, she said, decreases may loom.
A saturated Keno market, the impending arrival of casinos, competition from fantasy sports and an aging lottery demographic all reflect a shift to online versus point-of-sale transactions.
"I think that we'll get the data consideration and the numbers really do speak for themselves," said Goldberg. "The world is a changing environment and there tough revenue numbers coming out. There are going to be a lot of hard decisions made."
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week slashed $98 million from the state budget, across a variety of departments. Last July he trimmed $261 million when he signed the spending plan, but lawmakers restored $235 million.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, opposed the cuts. "Recent revenue numbers indicate a need to be vigilant," said DeLeo. "However, cuts are not necessary at this time."
State officials twice this year reduced their fiscal 2017 revenue forecast -- by more than $900 million overall – citing a drop in capital gains tax collections.
Goldberg expects revenue estimates to be less of a moving target next year.
"There's an understanding that when people look at the fiscal 2018 numbers, they're going to be more conservative."