Pro-online poker activists to gather 66,593 signatures

Attempt to get the legalisation of online gambling on next year's ballot will demand significant public support

Pro-online poker Massachusetts activists have wasted no time in launching an initiative in order to gather the public support necessary for a legalisation proposal to be included on next year's ballot (see previous InfoPowa report).

Associated Press reports that the Internet, paid help and networks of volunteers are all being mobilised to collect the tens of thousands of voter signatures needed to make the cut. By law, activists must gather signatures equal to 3 percent of the total of all votes cast for governor during the last state election.

For the 2010 ballot, that number is 66 593 signatures, and they must be collected by December 7th this (2009) year. But even that may not be enough. If state legislators decide not to place a question on the ballot at that point - and they typically don't - advocates have to go out and collect an additional 11 099 signatures by July, 2010.

AP reports that Randall Castonguay (41) is pushing a ballot question that would legalise, regulate and tax Internet poker in Massachusetts. He is the state director for the Poker Players Alliance, and says he'll rely mainly on volunteers to collect signatures. He said his group has 35 000-40 000 members in Massachusetts.

"We're kind of waiting to make sure the language is OK from the attorney general," said Castonguay.

Although the legal threshold is 66,593 signatures, supporters typically try to collect several thousand additional signatures to withstand challenges from opponents hoping to block them from the ballot. The law also requires that no more than one-quarter of the signatures come from any one county.

The online poker question has plenty of competition, from environmentalists to campaigns against road tolls and the repeal of state income tax.

The whole ballot system may be under consideration, Associated Press reports. This week the Committee on Election Laws will hear testimony on a bill filed by Democratic Party Senator Stanley Rosenberg, that seeks to create a special state commission to determine the fiscal consequences of each question on state and local governments.

The bill would also clamp down on paid signature gatherers and require stricter campaign finance reporting for those backing questions and clamp. Those restrictions include barring paid gatherers from collecting signatures for more than one question at a time.

All told, 17 groups have filed 30 petitions this year for proposed laws or constitutional amendments.

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