Massachusetts Gambling Sites – MA Laws and Regulations

Massachusetts is currently transitioning from having no commercial casinos to
having three casino resorts and a slots parlor.

The Plainridge Park Casino (slots parlor) is already open, while the MGM
Springfield opens in 2018 and the Wynn Everett opens in 2019. This has the
potential to make Massachusetts the biggest casino destination in New England.

Unfortunately, this swirl of casino activity hasn’t resulted in the state
regulating online gaming yet. But at least the discussion is rolling.

So, how close is Massachusetts to legalizing internet
gaming? And what’s the current state of iGaming here?

Find out as we cover the Massachusetts online gaming market in the next
section.

We’re also going to discuss the state’s land-based gambling laws, current
legal gaming activities and the history of Massachusetts gambling.

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Online Gambling and Massachusetts Law

The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780, making it the oldest
constitution in the United States.

Not surprisingly, their criminal code contains antiquated language that
hasn’t caught up to the iGaming world. This is apparent from the mention of
“inns,” “innkeepers” and “bazaars” in the gambling laws.

You won’t find anything related to online gamblers or offshore casinos
located in the Massachusetts Constitution.

This places the Old Colony State in a grey area with regard to internet
gaming, and it brings up more questions than answers, which we’ll cover below.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Massachusetts?

No, Massachusetts has never legalized and regulated iGaming. But, on the
other hand, online gaming isn’t explicitly illegal either.

No excerpt in the state criminal code specifically bans internet gambling or
makes it illegal for people to gamble online.

The only part that comes close is Section 17A, which you can see below:

“Whoever uses a telephone or, being the occupant in control of premises where
a telephone is located or a subscriber for a telephone, knowingly permits
another to use a telephone so located or for which he subscribes, as the case
may be, for the purpose of accepting wagers or bets, or buying or selling of
pools, or for placing all or any portion of a wager with another, upon the
result of a trial or contest of skill, speed, or endurance of man, beast, bird,
or machine, or upon the result of an athletic game or contest …”

Nothing in this section mentions the “Internet,” a “computer,” a “electronic
device” or a “mobile device.” We assume that Massachusetts wrote Section 17A
with phone-based sports betting in mind.

Maybe “telephone line” could refer to a Wi-Fi connection, but we’ve seen
other grey-area states with more damning language than this.

Therefore, we see the Bay State as having no true stance against online
gaming right now.

Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?

Many offshore casinos, poker sites and sportsbooks serve Massachusetts
residents because the state is in a grey area.

The great thing about this is that it gives Bay Staters an opportunity to
gamble online in the absence of a regulated market. The downside is that
offshore gaming sites aren’t licensed by the state or any U.S. government
agency.

Instead, offshore casinos are located and licensed in countries/territories
like Alderney, Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica, Curacao, Quebec (Kahnawake /
Mohawk Territory) and Panama.

These jurisdictions require licensees to meet certain requirements, but they
don’t provide much oversight. This means that whether an offshore site is safe
varies on a case-by-case basis.

The large majority of the time, you’ll be dealing with a reputable company.
After all, offshore sites must be reliable, offer good customer service and
process withdrawals quickly if they want repeat business.

We’ll cover tips later in this section that will help you pick good offshore
casinos and poker rooms.

Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts doesn’t have anything in their criminal code saying that
gambling at offshore sites is illegal. But this never means that you’re 100% in
the clear.

In fact, Chapter 271: Section 2 has a broad definition of what constitutes
gambling:

“Whoever, in a public conveyance or public place, or in a private place upon
which he is trespassing, plays at cards, dice or any other game for money or
other property, or bets on the sides or hands of those playing, shall forfeit
not more than fifty dollars or be imprisoned for not more than three months; and
whoever sets up or permits such a game shall be punished by a fine of not less
than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not less
than three nor more than twelve months.”

This section goes on to discuss that people can be arrested if they’re caught
violating Massachusetts gambling laws:

“If discovered in the act, he may be arrested without a warrant by a sheriff,
deputy sheriff, constable or any officer qualified to serve criminal process,
and held in custody, in jail or otherwise, for not more than twenty-four hours,
Sunday and legal holidays excepted, until complaint may be made against him for
such offence.”

We only mention Chapter 271: Section 2 to caution you and remind you that
anything is possible.

In reality, the chances of you being arrested for gambling online in
Massachusetts are almost nonexistent. The Bay State has never arrested anybody
for this crime, and we don’t see them doing so in the future.

Will Massachusetts Legalize Online Gambling?

When Massachusetts signed the Expanded Gaming Act into effect in 2011, this
sparked up conversations on iGaming. Here are a couple of notable instances:

  • Through a
    2013
    Telegram article
    , State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan explained concerns over
    Massachusetts losing out on iGaming revenue. “This isn’t a debate over
    whether you like gaming or not,” she said, “this is a debate over the fact
    that we have to move to online gaming to protect state revenues.”
  • Bill H3400
    mentions that “hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts consumers have been
    playing internet poker through websites controlled by illegal off-shore
    business” since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement
    Act (UIGEA).
  • None of these actions have vaulted Massachusetts towards regulated
    online gambling, but they’re moving the Bay State towards serious
    discussions that will likely begin once the land-based casinos are
    established.

How do I Choose the Best Offshore Gaming Site?

Here are some tips on how to look for quality online casinos, poker rooms and
sports betting sites:

  • Read Several Reviews
  • When you get the urge to gamble online,
    reading is the last thing you want to do. But reviews are necessary to
    finding the best-possible gaming site before depositing your money.

  • Look for Non-biased Reviews
  • Many sites that feature reviews are
    doing so because they’re affiliates hoping that you’ll sign up. But just
    because you’re an affiliate doesn’t mean you can’t offer non-biased reviews.
    Skip over sites that offer fluff, and stick to those that give you the real
    pros and cons.

  • Visit the Site & Do Your Own Research
  • In addition to checking
    out reviews, you should also visit the prospective casino/poker/sportsbook
    site and check it out for yourself.

  • Look at Bonus Terms & Conditions
  • One of the key things you want to
    look at when visiting a gaming site is the terms and conditions of their
    bonuses. How much do you have to wager to earn a casino welcome bonus? How
    many loyalty points do you need to earn a poker sign-up bonus? It’s good to
    answer these questions so you know what’s required to unlock your free
    money.

  • Check Out the Game Variety
  • Another thing worth doing at a site is
    browsing through their games. It’s always nice when an online casino has at
    least 200 total games or more. Likewise, look for poker rooms with plenty of
    variations, and sportsbooks that cover a lot of sports.

  • Contact Customer Support
  • Good customer service is crucial when you
    have an issue or question at a gaming site. Ask customer support an easy
    question through live chat to see how quickly they respond. If a casino
    doesn’t have live chat, then it’s probably going to take you hours to get a
    response through email.

Also On This Page

More Gambling Laws in Massachusetts

  • Casino Games: Legal
  • Sports Betting: Not Legal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Racing Betting: Legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Bingo: Legal
  • Charitable Gaming: Legal
  • Social Gambling: Not Legal

Casinos Legal


The Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 made way for three casino resorts and one
slots parlor.

MGM received the first license in June 2014 (opening late 2018), Wynn Resorts
received the second in September 2014 (opening late 2019) and the third license
hasn’t been awarded yet.

Both MGM Springfield and Wynn Everett are going to be lavish resorts. MGM
will pour $950 million into their Springfield establishment while the Wynn is
spending $2.1 billion on the Everett venue.

Penn National received the slots-parlor license in February 2014. They opened
their slots-only venue at Plainridge Park racecourse in June 2015.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe also has plans to open a casino in Taunton,
Massachusetts. The tribe signed a compact with the state’s governor in October
2012, but they were met with opposition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Bureau believes that the Mashpee Wampanoag are being forced to share too
much of their revenue with the state. The tribe revised their agreement, and it
passed the Bureau’s standards.

But now, the federal government is battling the casino on grounds that the
Mashpee aren’t a federally recognized tribe. The U.S. Department of the Interior
dropped their appeal, but they’re still battling that the

tribe has a claim to reservation lands
.

Charitable Gambling Legal


Massachusetts has fair charity gaming laws that allow various educational,
fraternal, patriotic and religious groups to offer charitable gambling.

Approved games include bingo, raffles and card games like bridge and poker.
The main stipulation is that 100% of the proceeds must go towards the stated
charity.

Lottery Legal


Legalized in 1971, the Massachusetts State Lottery offers a variety of
multi-state, state and scratch-off games.

Massachusetts Lottery games include: Lucky 4 Life, Mass Cash, Megabucks
Doubler, Mega Millions, Powerball and The Numbers Game.

Poker Legal


The three commercial casino licenses give the licensees the ability to offer
live poker. Other than this, Massachusetts live poker scene is limited to
charity gambling.

Racing Legal


The Bay State has offered legal pari-mutuel betting since 1935.

Like many other states, they once had a thriving horseracing industry.
Massachusetts also offered greyhound racing at Raynham-Taunton Park and
Wonderland Park, but they banned greyhound racing, and the horseracing industry
isn’t what it used to be.

You can still find races at Plainridge and fall events at the Northampton
County Fair, but the Massachusetts pari-mutuel industry has certainly declined.

Social Gambling Not Legal


The Massachusetts criminal code fails to property address social gaming one
way or the other.

We can’t find any language that restricts or bans social gambling. That said,
private poker games and office betting pools are likely legal, provided the host
isn’t profiting in any manner.

Gambling Venues in Massachusetts

The Plainridge slots parlor is the only active Massachusetts casino at the
time of this writing. They boast over 1,200 gaming machines, including slots,
video poker and other games.

As covered before, Massachusetts also has a few racetracks and upcoming
casino resorts.

Plainridge and the future casinos will help make the Bay State a major player
in the area gaming market.

Connecticut and New York will provide the toughest competition for
Massachusetts’ casinos. But the state will still draw gamblers from parts of
Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Below you can see a few current and future Massachusetts gambling spots.

Massachusetts Map

    1) MGM Springfield

    1441 Main Street

    Springfield, Massachusetts

    2) Norwegian Cruise Lines

    Dawn 1 Black Falcon Avenue

    East Boston, Massachusetts

    3) Plainridge Park Casino

    301 Washington Street

    Plainville, Massachusetts

    4) Wynn Boston Harbor Resort

    1 Horizon Way

    Everett, Massachusetts, United States

History of Gambling in Massachusetts

Massachusetts became the second colony settled in 1620, when the Pilgrims
arrived at Plymouth Rock. It didn’t take long before settlers began playing
small games of chance.

In later years, the colony used lotteries and raffles to fund public projects
like Harvard University and the Massachusetts State House.

But it wasn’t until the 1900s that lawmakers got involved in gambling. The
State Legislature approved pari-mutuel betting in 1935 and the Massachusetts
Lottery in 1971.

Facing pressures from out of state casinos, lawmakers and voters approved the
2011 Expanded Gaming Act in order to create commercial casinos.

Plainridge Casino became Massachusetts’ first official casino in 2015, and
the state is poised to enter the era of major casino resort gambling beginning
in 2018.

1935

State Legislature legalizes pari-mutuel betting; Suffolk Downs opens the same year.

1971

Massachusetts State Lottery approved.

1999

Plainridge Park racetrack opens and begins offering harness racing.

2011

Legislature and voters approve Expanded Gaming Act, which allows for three commercial casino licenses and one slots parlor.

2012

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe agrees to casino compact with state, but they’re rejected by Indian Bureau of Affairs.

2013

Sen. Flanagan begins discussions on regulated online gaming.

2014

Anti-casino lobbying group launches referendum to stop casinos; voters defeat bill by 60%/40% ratio.

2014

MGM and Wynn awarded two of the state’s three casino-resort licenses.

2015

Plainridge Park Casino begins soft launch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Massachusetts?

Yes. A daily fantasy sports (DFS) bill passed both Massachusetts houses and
was signed into effect by Gov. Charlie Baker in August, 2016.

At this time, the state is still setting up the market. But when it gets
rolling, Massachusetts will have legal and regulated DFS contests.

Why are there Online Casinos in Massachusetts? Aren’t they Illegal?

Offshore gaming sites normally avoid states for two main reasons:

  • The state has a regulated iGaming
    market.
  • They’ve taken legal action against
    offshore sites.

The former example includes Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. The latter
includes Kentucky and Maryland.

Massachusetts doesn’t fit into either of these categories. Furthermore, they
haven’t even made online gambling illegal, which Louisiana, Montana and
Washington have done.

The Bay State is generally tolerant towards offshore gaming, which is why you
see online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks operating in the state.

It’ll be a while before Massachusetts takes any serious action towards
legalizing this activity. That said, expect offshore sites to continue serving
the Old Colony State for years to come.

Why Doesn’t Massachusetts Offer Its Own Online Casinos?

Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are the only three states that have legalized
and regulated online gaming so far. All three have required online gaming sites
to partner with a land-based casino. After all, brick-and-mortar casinos have
influence in any state that they serve, and they don’t want internet operators
also serving state residents without sharing a piece of the pie.

Massachusetts only has the Plainridge Casino right now. But they’ll soon have
the MGM Springfield and Wynn Everett.

Odds are that Massachusetts won’t act on legalizing internet casinos until
their brick-and-mortar market has had a few years to operate.

Additional Resources

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission oversees casinos in the state, while The
Massachusetts State Lottery handles lottery duties.

Below you can see information on these agencies along with where to find more
on the state’s gaming laws:

  • Massachusetts Gaming Commission
  • The Gaming Commission regulates casinos and enforces gaming laws. They’ve
    been instrumental in handling the process of awarding commercial casino licenses
    and setting up rules for the casino market.

  • Massachusetts State Lottery
  • The state lottery handles all lottery products in the states, sets payouts and awards
    winners.

  • Massachusetts State Gambling Laws
  • This site offers you an easy way to search through the Massachusetts
    Constitution and answer your gambling-related questions.

The Future & Your Views

Massachusetts has never been one of the earliest or latest states to legalize
different forms of gaming. This holds true for casinos (2012), the lottery
(1971) and pari-mutuel betting (1935).

We expect them to be middle of the road when it comes to regulating online
gaming. The Old Colony State is finally getting around to launching commercial
casinos. It’s going to be a few years before they begin seriously considering
internet gaming.

Sen. Flanagan started the talks several years ago, and while this hasn’t
pushed Massachusetts towards any serious legislative efforts, iGaming is at
least on the radar.

The fact that neighboring New York and nearby Pennsylvania are seriously
considering online gaming could hasten Massachusetts’ efforts. After all, if
they see these states experiencing success, then they’ll be more interested in
the matter. The good news is that state residents and visitors have more than
enough offshore gaming sites to keep them busy until this happens.

Massachusetts’ lawmakers don’t seem overly bothered by offshore casinos and
poker rooms. This gives you plenty of options until regulation happens.