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
- Look for Non-biased Reviews
- Visit the Site & Do Your Own Research
- Look at Bonus Terms & Conditions
- Check Out the Game Variety
- Contact Customer Support
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.
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.
In addition to checking out reviews, you should also visit the prospective casino/poker/sportsbook site and check it out for yourself.
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.
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.
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.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Massachusetts. Gambling Venues in Massachusetts
Where to gamble in the state of Massachusetts. The History of Gaming Laws in Massachusetts
A brief history of Massachusetts laws regarding gambling. Massachusetts Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Massachusetts Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Massachusetts
What does the future of gambling look like in Massachusetts?
More Gambling Laws in Massachusetts
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.
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.
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.
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.
1441 Main Street
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Dawn 1 Black Falcon Avenue
East Boston, Massachusetts
Plainridge Park Casino
301 Washington Street
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.
State Legislature legalizes pari-mutuel betting; Suffolk Downs opens the same year.
Plainridge Park racetrack opens and begins offering harness racing.
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe agrees to casino compact with state, but they're rejected by Indian Bureau of Affairs.
Anti-casino lobbying group launches referendum to stop casinos; voters defeat bill by 60%/40% ratio.
MGM and Wynn awarded two of the state's three casino-resort licenses.
Plainridge Park Casino begins soft launch.
Massachusetts State Lottery approved.
Legislature and voters approve Expanded Gaming Act, which allows for three commercial casino licenses and one slots parlor.
Sen. Flanagan begins discussions on regulated online gaming.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
- 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.
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.
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:
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.
The state lottery handles all lottery products in the states, sets payouts and awards winners.
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.