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.
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Gambling life in Massachusetts is centered around tribal casinos, which offer slots and classic table games. If you aren’t interested in casino-style gambling, you can also try pari-mutuel betting or participate in a state-operated lottery.
Massachusetts lawmakers haven’t passed any iGaming-friendly regulations so far and it’s very unlikely that the current situation will change in the foreseeable future, so if you’re looking for internet real money gaming options, offshore poker sites, casinos and sportsbooks are the only choices you have.
In 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick passed legislation that granted gaming licenses to several brick-and-mortar casinos in an effort to stimulate the economy. Since then, the state’s attitude on traditional casinos has slowly soured due to a handful of questionable legal incidents.
Several casinos are currently operating in Massachusetts, including:
Massachusetts citizens may own antique slot machines that are at least 30 years old as long as they do not use them to generate a profit.
Players who want to gamble from the comfort of their home or are looking for a more generous range of tabletop games can use our list of recommended online casinos for great Blackjack, Craps, and video poker options.
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.
Although sports gambling hasn’t been legalized in Massachusetts, a gaming bill has been gaining momentum with both the state’s legislators and the general public. Since the US Supreme Court’s ruling that paved the way for states to regulate sports betting, Massachusetts has been putting together all the pieces needed to legalize this form of gambling.
Massachusetts Representative and chairman of the Committee on Economic Development Joseph Wagner has been quoted saying that sports gambling may be legalized by 2019.
The state of Massachusetts does not currently differentiate between wagers made on electronic sports (eSports) and traditional sports. As a result, betting on the outcomes of eSports games is prohibited.
In the spring of 2018, Massachusetts legislators passed House Bill 2273, legalizing daily fantasy sports (DFS) gambling and outlining the regulations that DFS operators must follow. The popular Boston-based DFS operator DraftKings can now be accessed by players in its home state. Other notable DFS operators, such as FanDuel, are also available to gamblers in Massachusetts.
Betting on horse racing is legal in Massachusetts. Wagers on horse races must be placed either on-track or at a licensed off-site racing establishment. Pari-mutuel wagers can be made at the following locations:
In 2008, Massachusetts state voters passed the Greyhound Protection Act, which put an end to all dog racing in the state. Although it is not illegal to gamble on greyhound races, there are no more race tracks that host it.
All of Massachusetts’s major casinos offer live poker tables.
The state’s laws regarding social games of poker are ambiguous. There are no explicit prohibitions on games hosted within private residences, which means that all games of poker outside of public spaces are legal.
Massachusetts’s in-state lottery offers a wide selection of games, such as:
There are also several multi-state lottery games, including:
Winners of a lottery in Massachusetts keep 45% of the money, around 15% of the prize pool is claimed by lottery administrators to cover operating costs, and the rest goes to Massachusetts in the form of taxes. The majority of lottery revenue garnered by the state goes to the State Lottery Fund, which provides aid to cities and towns in need.
Additional short-term lotteries can be hosted for the following purposes:
Lottery prizes over $600 may be subject to garnishment if the winner is delinquent on their taxes or child support. Winners must claim their prize within one year of the award date. Prizes not claimed in time are considered forfeit and collected by the state.
Any non-profit formally recognized by Massachusetts may operate games of chance such as Bingo for fundraising as long as prizes do not exceed $100. Charity fundraising is hugely popular in Massachusetts, with more than 150 non-profit operators. In 2013, over $66 million was raised.
Popular Bingo hall locations include:
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.