Massachusetts Online Gambling
Massachusetts Quick Info
Population: 6.745 Million
State Motto: By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty
Land Casinos: 8
Land Poker Rooms: 2 Coming In 2018
Legal Gambling Age: 21
Massachusetts has a colorful history with gambling, with significant transformation over the years that has resulted in an up and coming gambling environment. The gambling laws in Massachusetts allow a variety of legal gambling entertainment options, with some fairly recent referendums that allow some of the long awaited venues to emerge as regulated gaming for the first time. Some wrinkles are still being ironed out where it concerns tribal gambling properties, but the state is definitely on a forward moving trajectory to providing premium betting destinations in three specific regions of the state.
With so many changes taking place concerning gambling in the state, including overturned court decisions, it is easy to get lost in the maze of legalities when trying to navigate the betting landscape. This page was designed to serve as a resource guide for Massachusetts players seeking information on legal gambling entertainment options that are at their disposal and an overview of what the state’s laws have to say about gambling both online and offline. We provide clear and concise information on each gaming venue, state laws and how federal laws play into the situation.
Our team of gambling professionals provides experienced and informed input that comes from decades of combined experience in both land based and the legal state online gambling arena. We are not lawyers and are not seeking to replace professional legal advice or services. We are simply providing our readers with the most current and concise overview of information relevant to gambling laws and opportunities in The Bay State.
Several attempts have been made to legalize online poker in the state of Massachusetts. In 2013, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr introduced legislation that would legalize the issuance of legal online gambling licenses to existing casinos. The measure was unable to gain much momentum until Tarr attempted to integrate the bill as an amendment to the Massachusetts Senate Budget. He was able to garner some support there from Republican senators, but not enough to get the bill passed.
A few months later, another bill was introduced that would amend an existing transportation bill to include taxation regulations, establishing license fees and legalize online poker and casino games. Unfortunately the effort was rejected. However, in early 2014, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission agreed to hold a hearing, and also requested that the Lottery Commission be allowed to experiment with online lottery gaming on a trial basis. Again, the efforts never gained enough traction to produce any real results.
2016 appears to be much more promising, with yet another bill being brought forward by Bruce Tarr. This new piece of legislation works in tandem with efforts to expand the gambling industry in Massachusetts in order to compete with increasing competition from bordering states. The Gaming Commission and Lottery Commission are on board with the measure, and the Poker Players Alliance feels positive about the possibilities we could see emerging in Massachusetts.
At this time, operating or owning an online gambling business in Massachusetts is not legal because online gambling is simply not addressed in the state’s laws. The laws of the land have not made it illegal for MA residents to participate in legally licensed and regulated offshore internet gambling. This being the case, we can confidently say that operating an online gambling site in Massachusetts is not legal, however betting online at legally sanctioned offshore gambling sites is not a violation of state or federal laws. The gambling sites in this guide are legitimately licensed, subject to strict regulatory oversight, and accept players from Massachusetts. The gambling laws in the state do specifically prohibit using a telephone to place bets.
Penalties For Violating Massachusetts State Gambling Laws
As is the case in most states, penalties for operating illegal gambling activities is much more severe than the penalties for participating in illegal gambling as a player. Individuals convicted of promoting or organizing illegal gambling activities can face up to fifteen years in prison. Players of illegal gambling activities still can face some punishment, including small fines and jail sentences that are less than a year.
If you want more information about the laws that could potentially affect your online gambling activity, check out our U.S. federal gambling laws section for insight into which regulations come into play on the federal level.
We actually have high hopes that the state will in fact embrace legal online gambling within their borders. Bruce Tarr’s relentless effort to bring legislation forward that legalizes online gambling in the state might just pay off in 2016. If not, we have no doubt that this committed proponent of online gambling will have something new up his sleeve. The fact that neighboring states such as Pennsylvania who is close to passing their own laws or New Jersey which already offers legalized gambling does present some competitive pressure to lawmakers in Massachusetts. This should only help the issue.
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The minimum gambling age requirement for lottery games, pari-mutuel wagering and charitable gambling is 18. The legal minimum gambling age for casino gambling is 21 years old.
The gambling laws in Massachusetts have not legalized the operation of online casino within state borders. There is a bill that has been introduced that would legalize online casino game operation for existing licensed casinos, but it is still in the information gathering stages. In the mean time, Massachusetts’s residents are free to engage in quality US online casino gambling through licensed and regulated online casinos that are based outside of the United States. Doing so does not violate any state or federal laws.
As of this writing, it is not legal to own or operate an online poker site inside of Massachusetts borders. This could change should the pending legislation introduced by Bruce Tarr gain enough traction to emerge on the ballot in 2016. This could be the bill that finally allows state licensed online gambling to emerge. Until such time as we see the bill succeed or fail, there are a number of legally licensed and regulated online poker sites that accept players from Massachusetts. These sites are located outside of the Untied States, and hence do not need the Commonwealth of Mass to pass a law allowing them to provide their gaming services to the state’s players. You will find a listing of premium online poker sites that have been vetted and approved by our team of gambling professionals and analysts.
Other than pari-mutuel wagering, which is often lumped in with sports betting, there are not any state licensed bookmaker options in Massachusetts. Even if the state wanted to offer this to their residents, they would be prohibited form doing so due to two federal laws that regulated sportsbook gambling in the US. Those laws include the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and the Federal Wire Act. These two laws combined effectively make US based online and offline sports betting illegal. The only exceptions are concerning land based sports betting in which four specific states are exempted from PASPA: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Massachusetts citizens seeking legal online sports betting in the US can try out one of the licensed and regulated online sportsbooks that we’ve recommended in this guide. They are each located outside of the US and are hence not subject to PASPA or the Federal Wire Act. They have also each been vetted by our team and were approved as secure, high quality and legitimately licensed destinations.
There is a Tribal State compact in place in Massachusetts. Two tribes in the state are trying to establish gambling operations. They have both faced strong opposition and are dealing with overturned court rulings that have ceased their progress. Mashpee Wampanoag had already broken ground on their planned casino resort property First Light Casino when a court injunction forced them to stop all activities. The second case concerns the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah who are attempting to transform their community center into a slots parlor have also been stopped. The dispute concerns Massachusetts Settlement Act of 1987 vs the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Both cases are currently pending.
The key to legally betting online is in selectively choosing a legally sanctioned online gambling destination. Online casinos, poker sites and sportsbooks that are legitimately licensed and regulated within a governing jurisdiction that has already legalized online gambling for their respective territories can legally offer their services to players around the world, including those in Massachusetts and the United States In general.
Betting real money online for adults of legal gambling age in their jurisdiction, in the United States, is already a reality. But because of the convoluted and constantly changing federal, state and Department of Justice opinions regarding bingo, poker, the lottery, casino games, horse races and sporting events where a wager takes place on the Internet, there is mass confusion regarding who can legally bet […]
As reported by the Massachusetts State House News Service this past week, Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg sees Internet gambling for the state of Massachusetts as pretty much unavoidable. The Massachusetts senator said that, “I personally don’t see how you avoid it,” when speaking before a state Gaming Commission panel on Tuesday, March 11. He previously drafted 2011 legislation which was passed, legalizing casinos. Presumably […]
Gambling Laws That Apply To Land Based Gambling In Massachusetts
The gambling laws in Massachusetts are contained within the state’s constitution as General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The bulk of the laws relevant to gambling are broken down into two specific places. The regulations are contained within the Administration of Government portion of the General Laws Title II, Chapter 23K, specifically citing how the Gaming Commission will oversee, license and enforce regulations for the industry. Specific gambling laws, such as what is allowed and prohibited, as well as penalties for violations are contained within the Crimes Against Public Policy portion of the General Laws Title I, Chapter 271.
Private lotteries were commonly seen during the early colonial period in Massachusetts. However in 1719, all lotteries were banned. The state’s first public lottery was made legal in 1745, with at least 15 lotteries being established from 1749-1761.
Pari-mutuel wagering was one of the early legitimately regulated forms of gambling in Massachusetts. Live horse race betting and wagering on simulcast races are legal in MA. Relevant laws concerning horse racing are contained within the Administration of Government portion of the General Laws Title XIX, Chapter 128A. Relevant laws concerning wagering on simulcasts races is contained in the same section of the state’s statutes under Chapter 128C. The state implemented a ban on all gambling in 1832. It would be nearly 100 years later that horse and dog racing would be legalized in 1934, with the first licensed horse track, Suffolk Downs opening in 1935. Several licensed dog tracks also opened in 1935. In 1947, harness racing emerged as well. Betting on horse and dog races is also permitted at agricultural fairs around the state. At one time there were multiple horse and dog racetracks throughout the state.
The Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act, voted on as Question 3 on the ballot in 2008, effectively placed a ban on commercial dog racing. The law would phase out dog racing and wagering by 2010. This has resulted in the closing of dog racetracks in the state. Only one active horse racetrack remains, Plainridge Race Course, which also operates other types of gambling. Simulcast pari-mutuel wagering on horses and dogs is provided at Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park, both of these properties having previously operated as active racetracks. All pari-mutuel wagering is regulated by the Gaming Commission Division of Racing, who is responsible for implementing Chapters 128A and 128C of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Statutes.
The modern State Lottery in Massachusetts was established in 1971, holding its first drawing in 1972. The MA Lottery offers draw games, scratch off tickets and pull tab games, as well as interstate draw games. Keno was added in 19913. Prior to the 1971 authorization of a state lottery, the state experienced a roller coaster history of legalizing and banning and then re-legalizing private ad public lotteries, with the final ban taking place in 1833, which was overturned in the 1971 adoption of the current State Lottery. The lottery is overseen by the Massachusetts Lottery Commission.
The Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 has ushered in the state’s first regulated casino gambling options. The Act approved three destination casino resorts in designated regions of the state, and one slots only parlor. The Expanded Gaming Act authorizes two types of licenses. The category 1 licensed authorizes the operation of both slot machines and table games. A category 2 license authorizes a gaming established with slots and gaming machines, with no table games. Thus far, Plainridge Park Casino is currently operating as the single slots only parlor authorized by the state. They offer slots, video poker and blackjack via electronic gaming machines. There is not a poker room or any live table games at Plainridge. They carry a Category 2 license.
Two Category 1 casino licenses have been issued authorizing slots machines, gaming machines and table games, including poker. Recipients of the licenses include MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor. Both are planning to open their doors in 2018. A third license has been authorized but not issued yet pending the outcome of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal casino case that has received conflicting rulings from various courts as well as a second tribal casino case involving property in Martha’s Vineyard. There is a Tribal State compact in place, authorizing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to regulate tribal gambling in the state.
Both cases are pending additional appeals and rulings. In an effort to avoid competition proximity, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will hold off determining where to issue the third regional casino license. Live poker rooms will be allowed at the state’s commercial casinos. Charitable gaming is allowed in Massachusetts, including bingo, raffles and casino nights. Advanced licensing is required in order to operate a charitable gambling event. Social gaming is not provided any exemptions, meaning that home poker games are only legal as long as no money is involved.
In November 2014, gambling opponents brought a measure to the ballot that would have overturned legal casino gambling in the state. The measure was supported by various groups, including the state’s Roman Catholic bishops. The measure failed as voters chose to continue legalized casino gambling. Had the attempt succeeded, it would have been the first time in modern days (since 1931) that voters in a state reversed standing legislation expanding gambling.
On August 1, 2015, House Bill H.4569 was passed. Section 135 of this bill clarifies that Daily Fantasy Sports is in fact legal in Massachusetts, and that DFS businesses may provide their services to players in MA through July 31, 2018. The bill exempts DFS from the formal definition of gambling in Massachusetts gambling laws. The bill does not regulated DFS activities in any way, which means no taxation or licensing requirements are in place at this time. Many believe the bill is an intermediary step while a more extensive law is being drafted to include regulatory oversight.
Forms Of Gambling That Are Classified As Legal By The State
Casino Gambling – In 2011, casino gambling was made legal. Currently the Plainridge Park Casino is offering various casino games and is the single recipient of a Category 2 slots parlor licensed in the state. This means they do not offer any live table games. Licensed online casinos located offshore are legally available for Massachusetts players.
Poker – Commercial poker rooms are legal in Massachusetts and will be permitted at the three Category 1 licensed casinos approved for establishment. Two of these casinos are scheduled to open in 2018. Massachusetts players are also able to legally access licensed online poker sites that are located offshore.
Pari-mutuel Racing – Betting on horse races is permitted in Massachusetts, with live betting allowed at Plainridge Park Race Course. Betting on simulcast horse and dog races is offered at two of the state’s inactive racetracks. Extended pari-mutuel wagering options are available to Massachusetts residents through legally licensed racebooks located offshore. Our recommended online sportsbooks also offer racebook options.
Sports Betting – Outside of pari-mutuel wagering, there are not any licensed sports betting destinations located in Massachusetts. There are numerous online sportsbooks that are legally licensed, regaled and located offshore. You will find a listing of those accepting Massachusetts customers in this guide.
Bingo – Bingo is a legal form of gambling in Massachusetts through both licensed casino properties (still under construction) and through charitable gambling activities. Additional bingo gaming options are available online through licensed online bingo sites accepting Massachusetts players.
Lottery – The state operates a draw game, scratch off tickets and pull tab games, and participates in multiple interstate games. Keno is also a game that is offered through the state’s Lottery Commission.
Daily Fantasy Sports – The state of MA has legalized DFS activities and has categorized them as exempted form the definition of gambling. It is not illegal for Massachusetts residents to participate in Daily Fantasy Sports activities.
All U.S. State Gambling Guides
- Delaware - State Regulated
- Nevada - State Regulated
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey - State Regulated
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia