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Massachusetts Lottery Exploring Fantasy Sports Options

BOSTON (AP) — The state's treasurer says she's exploring whether the Massachusetts Lottery should enter the lucrative online world of fantasy sports leagues.

Democratic Treasurer Deb Goldberg said Wednesday she is trying to understand how online fantasy sports websites operate but is concerned their rocketing popularity could threaten the lottery.

"It's really my responsibility as head of the lottery commission to be thinking about what is the competitive environment that we're operating in," Goldberg said in her Statehouse office.

Goldberg said she was largely unaware of online fantasy sports games until she attended a recent Boston Red Sox game and saw ads for the fantasy sports website DraftKings, which is based in Boston. She said she's in the early stages of studying the issue.

"We are literally researching how does this operate, who does this reach, what is it," She said. "Even the definition isn't clear."

Daily fantasy sports participants put together virtual teams based on real players and compete for points based on the players' statistics. Paid contests cost as little as $1 to enter, but some players wager tens of thousands of dollars on each matchup.

Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey is reviewing DraftKings. She said daily fantasy sports is a new and rapidly growing industry and her office has been looking into the practices of the companies to better understand how they operate.

"Neither federal law nor Massachusetts state statutes prohibit fantasy gaming," Healey said in a statement. "My focus is on ensuring that there are proper consumer protections in place."

Healey said she's concerned about recent reports about insider activity that would have put average players at a competitive disadvantage.

DraftKings has said its executives are happy to work with Healey to answer her questions.

At an evening event sponsored by the Boston Globe and Suffolk University, Healey was again asked about DraftKings.

Healey said there's "no criminal inquiry" into the company and "we're not looking to shut them down."

DraftKings and another leading fantasy sports website, FanDuel, are being investigated by New York's attorney general following media reports a DraftKings employee may have had access to unfairly valuable data before winning $350,000 in a FanDuel contest. DraftKings and FanDuel, which is based in New York, have said nothing is more important to them than the integrity of the games they offer.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said on Boston Herald Radio that Goldberg should focus on the lottery. He also said he was skeptical about the idea of the lottery running fantasy sports games.

"The lottery has a fundamental purpose and a defined role, and it has been reasonably successful at doing that," he said Wednesday.

Goldberg said the lottery commission's fundamental role will continue to be running a healthy lottery. She said any expansion into online fantasy sports would require legislative approval.

Baker also said he doesn't think "anybody ought to do anything until after the attorney general makes some decisions on that."

Traditional sports betting is barred outside a handful of states, but daily fantasy sports are allowed in most of the country.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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