Massachusetts Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Gambling in Massachusetts has been in hibernation mode for over 300 years, with just a lottery and pari-mutuel horse racing to keep residents amused. Things have changed in 2011 when a new law was passed to bring three casinos and a parlor to the State.

Nowadays, the Massachusetts gambling landscape is blossoming, allowing for many different types of legal gaming. Natives of The Bay State can buy state and regional lottery tickets, play in casinos, bet on greyhound and horse racing and play in raffles and charity bingo events. In general, Massachusetts has some of the most permissive social gambling laws in the US.

Today, we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of Massachusetts gambling laws and regulations. We have extensively researched this matter and made our best effort to comprehensively cover all the relevant facts.

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Gambling Laws in Massachusetts — The Law Overview

Massachusetts’ gambling laws are complex but generally permissive. The state law has changed in recent years, reshaping the gambling legal landscape. When the Expanded Gaming Act was passed in 2011, the state allowed for the creation of three casino-resorts and one slot parlor. These establishments are not allowed to host live poker or any kind of live dealer table games. Instead, they feature slot and video poker games, as well as electronic versions of popular table games.

Nowadays, most forms of gambling are allowed in Massachusetts, including charitable gambling, licensed horse-racing, licensed dog racing, lottery, as well as casino gambling in three of Massachusetts’ casino establishments that are currently operating.

Massachusetts Statutes

The Massachusetts legislation contains some unique terms, and it’s one of the most complex sets of statutes we’ve come across. According to the statutes, all forms of gambling that are not specifically regulated are banned. They refer to gambling as “gaming”, so “wagering” is the key word for describing illegal gambling activities in the law books. There’s little to no difference between the operators and the players before the law — although there are no recorded cases of players’ arrests for illegal gambling. Here is the key section from the statutes, covering the three main elements that make gambling “illegal” — gambling houses, wagering, and gambling devices.

Chapter 271: Section 1. Gaming or betting; forfeiture; limitations.

Section 1. Whoever, on a prosecution commenced within eighteen months after the commission of the crime, is convicted of winning at one time or sitting, by gaming or betting on the sides of those gaming, money or good to the value of five dollars or more, and of receiving the same or security therefor, shall forfeit double the value of such money or goods.”

An important thing to note is that spending money on games of skills counts as wagering — only bets under $5 are exempt.

“Whoever manufactures, transports, sells, offers for sale, stores, displays, repairs, reconditions, possesses, or uses any gambling device or parts for use therein shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.”

When it comes to simple gambling, the Massachusetts police will charge a misdemeanor. A level one misdemeanor can get you a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. The fine for level two misdemeanors is substantially higher and has a maximum incarceration time that exceeds six months. A level three misdemeanor is classified as a felony and it can get you at least one year in prison. Operating an illegal online gambling establishment or a gambling device is enough to acquire a felony court.

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed?

One of the most popular forms of gambling Massachusetts and the US, in general, is pari-mutuel wagering. Greyhound and horse racing have been taking place in the Codfish State since its colonial days. Plainridge Park Casino is one of the most popular venues that host horse racing. This elite establishment is located in Plainville and represents a harness racing track and slot parlor.

Bingo or Beano, as the Massachusetts residents like to call it, is regulated by the Lottery Commission. Bingo, Raffles, and Casino Nights are held by non-profit organizations. These groups host Charitable Gaming events to raise funds and provide their community with entertainment. Massachusetts allows nonprofit organizations to host casino nights three times a year.

Massachusetts also runs a state lottery since 1973, and it was created through a state constitutional amendment. Residents can purchase tickets for games of chance involving numbers or pull-tabs. This includes lotto drawings, scratch-off tickets, virtual horse racing, and keno. The Massachusetts lottery also participates in interstate drawings such as Mega Millions or Powerball.

Casino gaming is also allowed at one of the three casinos that are currently operating in Massachusetts — MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino, and Middleboro Casino Website.

There is no law under the Massachusetts criminal code that addresses online gambling, but that doesn’t make it necessarily legal. The only law that comes even close to addressing the matter has to do with “using a telephone line for gaming purposes”, which is explicitly illegal. Here’s the excerpt:

Whoever uses a telephone line for the purposes of accepting wagers or bets, or for placing all or any portion of a wager with another upon the result of a trial or contest… shall be punished by a fine of not more than two thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year.”

Since it’s unclear whether or not a WiFi connection can be considered a “telephone line”, we’re pretty sure that placing wagers from it should be legal, or rather not “illegal.” By the looks of it, the Old Line State will soon regulate online gambling, following the footsteps of Delaware, New Jersey, and other well-regulated US states.

It’s highly unlikely that anyone in Massachusetts would be arrested for gambling online. Provided that you place bets on offshore sites, you’re in the clear.

Where to Gamble in Massachusetts?

There are currently three first-class casinos in the state of Massachusetts — MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino, and Middleboro Casino Website. Below, we’ll briefly talk about the first two, as Middleboro Casino appears to have some issues with the authorities and it’s currently not working.

MGM Springfield

Located at One MGM Way, Springfield, MA 01103, this enormous entertainment complex is only a 9-minute walk from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. This luxurious hotel and casino establishment boasts plush rooms, a luxe steakhouse, gym&spa, a golf course, and a first-class casino. The elite casino floor boasts the largest slots collection in all of Massachusetts, and there is also a fantastic table games portfolio where you can find favorites such as blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and poker. There are also numerous promotions for both new and regular customers, as well as a first-class VIP scheme.

Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino is a slot machine parlor and a harness racing track in Plainville, hosting live racing events from April-November with an indoor simulcast theater. Apart from massive slots collection that features games of various themes and denominations, the casino also has a section dedicated to table games lovers. These games are, however, in electronic form, and there are several varieties of blackjack, craps, and roulette. The promotion section is stacked with all kinds of daily, weekly, and monthly promotions, and some of them are even offering players a chance to win a brand-new Mercedes or $1,000,000.

FAQ

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Massachusetts?

Yes, State Attorney General Maura Healey legalized the games in 2015.

Can You Bet on Horse Racing in Massachusetts?

Yes, major sites like TwinSpires, TVG, and BetAmerica all accept this action.

Is Off-Track Betting Legal in Massachusetts?

Yes, several racecourses in Massachusetts offer off-track betting.

What Lottery Games Are There in Massachusetts?

Lotto drawings, scratch-off tickets, keno, and virtual horse racing.

What Is the Minimum Gambling Legal Age in Massachusetts?

It’s 18 for bingo, lottery, and racing, and 21 for casino games.