If you know anything about the casino industry in New England, you probably know that there isn’t all that much to speak of. Compared to most other regions of the United States, New England, historically, has taken a hard line stance against most forms of gambling, but especially that which takes place at casinos. The reasons for this are numerous, but it really boils down to the Puritan roots of the region. By nature, Puritans despised gambling and often did anything they could to prevent gambling from taking place.
Times are changing in the region, and there is no better example of that than the state of Massachusetts. The state now has plenty of casino options for those who live in the state as well as for those who might be visiting. In fact, competition amongst New England states as it relates to casinos is something that is beginning to heat up, and more and more casinos are being established.
Plainridge Park Casino
Wynn Boston Harbor
Ever since 2011, the state of Massachusetts has made it so that 3 land-based casinos can be licensed under state law. In the state, land-based casinos exist in much the same way that they do in popular gambling destinations such as Atlantic City or Las Vegas. In addition to the casino floor and all the games available there, most of these sites are equipped with hotels, restaurants, spas, and stores for shopping.
Though there are currently none, there has been a strong push by Native tribes to be able to have casinos established on their own, sovereign lands. There is a belief that tribal gaming will become available soon, but so far that has not come to fruition.
Much like riverboat gambling in states that are situated along the Mississippi River, Massachusetts has casino cruises. The difference between casino cruises and riverboat gambling is simple: riverboat gambling is legalized under state law whereas casino cruises take passengers to Federal waters where state laws do not apply. In the absence of state law, most types of gambling are, technically, legal. This is a highly disputed form of gambling and always has been, but the fact of the matter is that it has existed for some time now and has not really come under legal scrutiny.
As was mentioned above, the Puritan roots of Massachusetts means that there isn’t all that much with regard to gambling history from the 18th and 19th centuries. With that being said, Native tribes have been playing gambling games of their own dating back to before the first settlers ever even arrived. It wasn’t until the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s when gambling entered the mainstream to some extent. Even in those days, however, the only forms of gambling had to do with wagering on horse and dog racing, much like you will find in the history of plenty of other states.
Like Maryland, Massachusetts sees much of its casino history happening somewhat recently. In 2007, the Mashpee Native American tribe was official recognized by the Federal Government. In the wake of this, the same tribe quickly unveiled plans to establish a casino on their own lands. That measure was fought by state lawmakers and ended up not amounting to anything. Despite the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Massachusetts tribes were unable to establish their own casinos due to a 1983 agreement that said, basically, that tribal lands were subject to state law. So, as long as casinos remained illegal under state law they would not be allowed to exist on tribal lands.
In 2011, the move to legalize casinos was thrust into hyperdrive. Even though similar legalization measures were shot down in 2008 and 2009 respectively, a measure in 2011 passed and was eventually signed into law. This allowed for the licensure of 3 casinos and one slots parlor. Clearly, the number of casinos in the state pails in comparison to what you might find in other states, but it is important to consider the relatively small size of Massachusetts. As we move forward, we anticipate that tribal gaming will gain some traction, so the future looks bright as far as the establishment of more casinos is concerned.