STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — One of the biggest challenges facing the three candidates hoping to become the next Massachusetts treasurer is how to protect the state lottery from possible revenue threats from new casino developments and online gambling.
Republican Mike Heffernan, Democrat Deb Goldberg and Green-Rainbow candidate Ian Jackson are all vying for the open seat. Treasurer Steve Grossman isn’t seeking re-election after his failed bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Overseeing the lottery is just one of the tasks that falls under the treasurer’s office — along with managing the state pension fund, the school building authority, the alcoholic beverages control commission, and returning unclaimed property.
One reason the lottery comes under such scrutiny is that revenue from the games — which topped $970 million in the most recent fiscal year — is returned to cities and towns in the form of unrestricted aid.
All three candidates say they would keep an eye on the effect casinos might have on the lottery. Two of the three — Goldberg and Jackson — say they support a ballot question that would repeal the state’s2011 casino law.
Goldberg said she’s prepared whether voters decide to repeal the casino law or not.
“If there is repeal, I still want to modernize (the lottery) because I believe we need unrestricted local aid,” she said.
Jackson acknowledged the importance of lottery revenues, but said the state should find “other revenue sources to fund what we want and not base it on games of chance.”
Heffernan opposes repeal.
“I think the casinos attract a different kind of customer,” he said. “I think concerns about the lottery taking a hit are overblown.”
All three also sounded a note of caution about taking the lottery online, an idea floated by Grossman.
“It’s hard to control and we obviously have issues in our society with addictive gambling,” Goldberg said.
Heffernan said he’d like to take a closer look, but said going online might be one way to help ensure the lottery appeals to younger players.
“The lottery player base is aging so that is one way to look at how to protect future revenues,” he said.
The candidates generally had praise for the handling of the state pension funds. The treasurer sits on the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board.
Goldberg, who served six years on the Brookline Board of Selectmen, said the pension board “is being very professionally run.”
Heffernan, a Wellesley resident and co-founder of tech startup Mobiquity, Inc., said the board has had good performance and have been “really getting more money into the pension system.”
Jackson said he’d like to see the state divest its pension fund from the fossil fuel industry.
If elected, Goldberg said she would like to continue the level of outreach under the treasurer’s unclaimed properly program and expand financial literacy programs to help people keep track of property.
She said the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which also falls under the treasurer’s office, should do more to curb marketing aimed at younger people and should push for more restaurant liquor licenses and fewer package stores.
Jackson, an Arlington resident, said he would want to allow residents to check a box when they file taxes to let the state use their Social Security number to see if they can track down unclaimed property.
Heffernan said the state should look to see if there is mobile technology that could be used to connect people with their unclaimed property. He also said if elected treasurer, a job that also entails being head of the state’s school building authority, he would make sure that when funding new schools the state communicates not only with local communities, but employers to make sure schools are preparing students for jobs.
The election is Nov. 4.
STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press