Online Gambling For Real Money in Massachusetts

People in Massachusetts have been gambling since it became a colony, and gambling in some form has existed continuously since then. It’s not that Massachusetts has been all that welcoming toward gambling throughout its history, but it has managed to confine their involvement to the public realm which helps them avoid contentions that their gambling laws unduly infringe upon the personal liberty that the Fourteenth Amendment provides.

People in Massachusetts are free to gamble all they wish, provided that they do it in a private setting, which also happens to include online gambling as well as social gambling. This distinction isn’t all that well known though, and the government isn’t about to work very hard to clarify this, given that they remain opposed to the idea in the first place.

Someone needs to enlighten the people to what they can and cannot do according to the laws, and we’re about to bring you up to speed on everything you can do in Massachusetts where real money gambling goes, the sort they want you to know and the sort that they may not wish you to be aware of.

History of Gambling in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Online Casinos and SlotsGambling was very popular during America’s colonial days and Massachusetts was no exception. It wasn’t until 1719 that any gambling was illegal in Massachusetts, at a time when private lotteries were all the rage. The 1719 law only banned lotteries though, although it made sense to target private lotteries due to the concern of their being run fairly, requiring a level of regulation and control that the colony could not provide in all cases.

Massachusetts’ first public lottery wasn’t in 1971, at a time where several other states enacted lotteries or were on the brink of doing it, it actually was first rolled out all the way back in 1745, when the colony sought to raise money to pay for wars and other matters of public interest that required funding.

From 1745 until 1833, for almost a hundred years, people in Massachusetts were able to play the state lottery as well as whatever other gambling they chose to partake in, until a more conservative wave brought this all to an end. The Massachusetts Lottery made a comeback in 1971, and has been prospering ever since.

The 1833 anti-gambling law sought to put an end to not just the lottery but public gambling in general, although making gambling illegal does not mean that people will just stop gambling. In the century between 1833 and 1934, there wasn’t much legal gambling at all anywhere in the country, at least commercial gambling, although people did continue to gamble in private as well as at illegal “gambling dens.”

Massachusetts has always seen the problem of gambling as being one that needs to be kept out of sight and therefore out of mind, but in 1934, the Great Depression caused them to re-think this a bit and they legalized horse and dog racing.

The next year, Suffolk Downs opened, and ran continuously until 2019 when it held its last race. This leaves the state with a single racetrack although there is also occasional races held during fairs. Dog racing ended up being later banned, due to the passing of the Greyhound Protection Act, but horse racing is still allowed.

Massachusetts has had various forms of charitable gambling available over the years, including bingo, raffles, pull-tabs, bridge and whist, and casino nights. Charitable bingo was banned between 1943 and 1971 due to a concern that racketeers were running some of these games, as it took a long time for the state to get comfortable again with allowing this particular type of charitable gambling.

The bonanza that occurred in many states due to the opening up of Indian gaming in 1988 passed Massachusetts by completely, and it wasn’t until 2011 that we saw movement on this issue in this state, with the passing of the Expanding Gaming Act. This has permitted the opening of 2 Class III casinos offering slots and table games, as well as a slot parlor at Plainridge Park, solidifying the state’s single remaining horse racetrack.

Massachusetts passed a bill in the House in 2020 authorizing regulated sports betting in the state, as part of a larger economic bill, but the sports betting provision got removed from the bill once it reached the state senate and the matter has been put on hold for now, but is still under consideration and may re-emerge down the road if enough support can be obtained.

The Indians are finally looking to get into the game, where the state’s two tribes are seeking to obtain final approval from the state to each build a casino on their land. This discussion has been going on for a decade now although one of the tribes won a key decision in the courts and are getting ready to build.

Massachusetts Gambling Laws

Massachusetts is a state whose laws have been particularly influenced by religious beliefs, and even to this day, there are laws on the books in this state that seek to prosecute such “crimes” as fornication, adultery, and even blasphemy. It’s not unusual for states to take a Puritan view of gambling, claiming that it is against “public morals” and such, where public morals are understood to include religious beliefs toward certain activities believed to be “sinful” without any objective reasons to prohibit them. The very idea of this is a violation of the constitutionally protected right of freedom of religion, which includes not being subject to the religious beliefs of others tainting the law.

Massachusetts has moved away from this view gradually over the years, and even have state licensed commercial casinos now, with this trending attitude toward permissibility now placing them above most states, who may only allow Indian casinos because they are forced to by federal law, or not at all.

As far as Massachusetts law goes, the prudishness that has driven them to outlaw public gaming is actually serving as a benefit of sorts in today’s modern gambling environment, where the goal of state law has been to keep this allegedly sinful behavior out of sight. All of Massachusetts’ anti-gambling laws concern themselves with public gambling and clearly exclude gambling in a private setting, unless you are found to be gambling on private property not your own and therefore found to be both gambling and trespassing.

It’s even hard to imagine a scenario where gambling when trespassing would ever come up. If someone shows up at a home game but isn’t welcome, perhaps having a weapon and insisting that they be allowed to play, and they actually do pull this off and gamble with them, then that would be a crime, but if someone was to go to this much trouble, they would not need to rely on games of chance to win money, they could just rob the people instead.

Those who passed these old laws could not have contemplated the coming of the internet, which Massachusetts law does not just not contemplate, they clearly exclude this and any other form of gambling occurring in private from their laws, to the extent that we know with certainty that all forms of gambling, including online gambling, in a private setting, is not prohibited by law.

There are penalties though if you are caught gambling in public or while trespassing on private property, as if that would ever happen, you shall be charged with the crime of gambling and risk forfeiture of winnings at double the amount won, not to exceed $50, plus imprisonment of no more than three months.

Running a public gambling operation is also against the law, as are various other offenses related to operating or promoting gambling, where one faces a fine of no more than $100 and imprisonment of no more than 12 months.

In practice, Massachusetts only goes after big illegal gambling operators, like the 33 that were charged in 2015 in the breakup of a gambling ring. This particular case is interesting because the agents charged set up a private internet site hosted offshore and collected the wagers and paid them out in person. This is very distinct from players betting themselves online and did clearly violate state law by promoting gambling in Massachusetts, which is an illegal act. The players were not charged though even though they could have been if the state chose to.

While we may see plenty of comments such as Massachusetts has not made online gambling legal as of yet, these folks do not understand how the law works, where any act is not illegal unless made so by way of law. If there is no law against something, it cannot be illegal and is legal by default. Gambling in a public place is illegal in Massachusetts, while any form of gambling in private has not been rendered illegal and is therefore legal by definition.

Land-Based Gambling in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has 116 licensed bingo operators and bring in $25 million from it a year. While bingo, also commonly called beano in Massachusetts, was legalized again in 1971, after several decades of it being banned, its allowance is still subject to local approval.

Charitable organizations in Massachusetts also raise $19 million from raffles, $12 million from selling pull tabs, and $300,000 from bazaars. They also run casino nights and offer real money bridge as well. There are a number of locations that offer real money poker nights and this is allowed provided at least some of the proceeds go to charity, allowing for third parties to participate in a quasi-charity format.

The Massachusetts Lottery not only sells lottery tickets but also offers pull-tabs at various bars. Massachusetts is down to one pari-mutuel horse racetrack now, at Plainridge Park, which has now become a racino as they call it, with their addition of slots.

There was one spot in the Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 for a slot parlor, and Plainridge Park was awarded it, creating Plainridge Park Casino. Plainridge was a natural choice as they claimed they could no longer stay in business without winning the bid for the slot action, although accusations of impropriety against the owner of the track ended up being bought by Penn National, who were granted the gaming license.

Plainridge Park Casino is well-stocked with 1,200 slot and video gaming machines, two restaurants, two bars, and a food court. They can’t offer physical table games, but they do have electronic blackjack, craps, and roulette, similar to the experience provided by the computer- generated versions of these games available at real money online gambling sites.

The first of three designated commercial casino licenses was awarded to MGM in 2014, to build a casino in Springfield, winning out against competitors Penn National, Mohegan Sun, and Hard Rock. The decision to select MGM was left up to local voters, who voted to block the other competitors and leave MGM to be the last proposal standing.

The $960 million dollar, 2 million square foot MGM Springfield was opened in 2018. It boasts a 125,000 square foot casino including 2.550 slots, 120 table games, a 23 table poker room, and a high-stakes poker room.

The $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor, also approved in 2014, took a little longer to build, but brought a big-time Vegas style casino to the Boston area. There were a few years of legal battles that preceded its construction, including a $35 million fine levied on the state by the state commission related to charges of sexual misconduct former Wynn’s CEO and founder Steve Wynn. It is not clear now this alleged conduct relates to this particular casino, but Wynn’s paid it and continue to operate the casino under their Encore brand.

The Encore Boston Harbor features a hotel with 671 rooms in the style of Wynn’s Las Vegas casinos. It boasts no less than 15 restaurants and bars across its 1.75 million square feet, and is definitely a resort up to the high standards of Wynn. It features all the amenities of a world-class casino, including a strip of luxury retail shops, and of course, a bevy of slots and gaming machines, all the popular casino table games, including over 1,800 slot and gaming machines and 185 table games including 6 private high-limit gaming rooms.

Encore Boston Harbor is simply a beautiful property and may be the closest you can get to Vegas in the country without actually going there. The fact that it is the third most expensive casino to build in the country ever, only being surpassed by the Cosmopolitan and Wynn’s Las Vegas, is testimony to the grand scale involved.

Massachusetts has also had various casino cruises to nowhere sail from their ports, although none are currently in operation and this sort of thing only thrives in states where there is no real alternative. Massachusetts residents have always been able to enjoy gambling in private, which continues.

Massachusetts Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Whether or not online gambling in a particular state is legal or not is often a matter of at least some debate, even though in many cases the law is quite clear. It is very clear in Massachusetts, where gambling in private has always been legal, with the only exception being if you are not entitled to be on private property and gamble while trespassing.

Online gambling generally occurs in private, and while we can gamble in public places on our mobile devices, the gambling itself is a private matter. Regardless, this happens outside the view of the government anyway and is not anything that the state of Massachusetts has ever targeted, not that they could if they wanted to anyway.

We might see Massachusetts regulate online gambling one day, and that day may not be that far off given that there is a bill out there that seeks to regulate real online sports gambling to go along with the daily fantasy sports betting that the state currently allows. This is far from betting on sports though, it just involves paying entry fees to contests of skill where players build their own teams and use stats to decide these contests.

We need to distinguish what it means when people tell us that Massachusetts does not have online gambling yet, which cashes out to the state not licensing and approving sites that they seek to regulate. The internet does not stop at state borders though, and Massachusetts has absolutely no say about what sites other jurisdictions choose to approve and regulate.

While it would certainly be nice to be able to play at state regulated real money online gambling sites, as this would make depositing and withdrawing easier, that’s about the only benefit, and it’s already pretty easy these days to get money in and out of offshore sites by using Bitcoin, which has now become widely accepted by these offshore real money sites.

How these two forms of online gambling stack up against one another is a moot point given that the offshore sites stand unopposed, and just compete with each other for the business of Massachusetts online players. States try their best to pretend that they have the market all to itself, even null markets like state regulated online gambling in Massachusetts, and think that by their agreeing to regulate it, it somehow comes to the state for the first time.

While legislators may choose to continue to be naïve about online gambling in their state, players certainly don’t have to, and there are a lot of players in Massachusetts that enjoy all forms of real money online gambling now.

Whatever your game is, whether it be betting on actual sporting events or other events, playing real money online slots, playing real money poker, or enjoying real money casino table games, all of this can be had from anywhere in the state, 24 hours a day. All that is required is an internet connection and a little money to deposit, and you can set up an account and be on your way to world-class real money online gambling in a matter of minutes.

The only thing missing here is knowing where to go to ensure that your offshore online gambling experience is the best it can be, or even acceptable. This is not unlike seeking a guide when you visit another country, to benefit from the knowledge of these guides who are far more familiar with the subject matter than you are.

This principle definitely applies to real money online gambling site selection, and we’re here for you to share our extensive knowledge of offshore real money gambling markets and sites to instill the level of confidence that everyone wants when they venture off into a world that is relatively unknown.

Future of Gambling in Massachusetts

Massachusetts still has one of the three original slots for commercial casinos to fill, and they also have the state’s two Indian tribes trying to get a casino built as well. The Mashpee tribe got approval to buy land for a casino in 2015, but later had their application overturned by the courts and the application remains in limbo.

The Aquinnah tribe has met with much more resistance from the state, who sought to quash their tribal rights to build a casino due to a 1983 land settlement held to pre-empt their federally conferred rights. The tribe argued that they still retain these rights, and the courts ultimately agreed, and the tribe is now proceeding to build a Class II slots only casino.

Massachusetts is waiting to hand out their third Class III license until the situation with the Mashpee tribe gets sorted out in the courts, as they want to grant a license in proximity to these Indian lands although they fear competition from a tribal casino if it ends up going ahead.

Sports betting is at least being considered by Massachusetts lawmakers, although the proposal has been placed on hold and looks like it is a couple of years away at least. Massachusetts already permits daily fantasy sports, allowing players to pay an entry fee to win cash prizes, so it’s not that big of a step for them to allow wagering on actual games, on land as well as online.

Once Massachusetts gets online sports betting, the next logical step would be to look for them to offer other real money online gambling options. They may also consider allowing more commercial land-based licenses at some point in the future, but the pace of change in Massachusetts has been painfully slow, and there’s no reason to expect that this will speed up anytime soon.

While the people of Massachusetts wait for more real money gambling, they do have some excellent land-based gambling venues to visit, including a world-class casino resort. Should they wish more, the world of real-money online gambling awaits.

Massachusetts Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • How long has Massachusetts had legal real money gambling?

    Lotteries were popular in 17th century colonial America, both private lotteries and ones run by the colony itself to raise money for wars and public projects. While the 18th century brought enough political resistance to lotteries to see them dry up everywhere, where lotteries were against the law in Massachusetts for 150 years, private gambling has never been against the law in this state, and has continued throughout its history.

  • What does the law say in Massachusetts about gambling?

    Gambling in a public place, betting on anything when in one of these spaces, is against the law in Massachusetts, which cashes out to gambling at a land-based venue not approved by the state. Massachusetts doesn’t target players with this law, as they are interested in shutting down these operations and providing a deterrent to operators. Residents of Massachusetts are free to gamble all they like as long as it occurs in private.

  • Why does Massachusetts continue to focus on public gaming?

    Massachusetts understands their role in commerce, and they are entitled under the powers of the constitution to regulate interstate commerce. While states normally at least aspire to a rational basis for restricting commerce, Massachusetts is far from alone in proceeding without it when it comes to gambling. They at least don’t interfere with non-commercial gambling, private gambling, which would be a direct infringement upon liberty.

  • Does Massachusetts have pari-mutuel wagering?

    Massachusetts is down to one pari-mutuel racetrack, Plainridge Racecourse, which has now become Plainridge Park Casino now that they have added slots to their horse racing cards. For folks who love to bet on the horses, this relatively new track carries on the tradition of the old Suffolk Downs which offered pari-mutuel wagering from 1935 when betting on horses began in the state right up to 2019 when the track ran its last race.

  • Why does Massachusetts not have tribal gaming yet?

    Massachusetts has two federally recognized Indian tribes, and both are very interested in opening a casino, although both have met challenges and resistance from the state. The Aquinnah tribe signed a land deal in 1983, giving up their gambling rights, and it wasn’t until 2018 that they won this right back in the courts. The Mashpee Tribe didn’t get federally recognized until 2007, and have been battling the state in the courts since. The Aquinnah Tribe is getting ready to move forward with their casino soon.

  • Does Massachusetts have land-based casinos yet?

    In 2011, the state of Massachusetts finally agreed to permit commercial casino gambling, and the new law allowed for a maximum of 3 commercial casino licenses being granted, along with a slot parlor license. Plainridge Park got the slot parlor license, and 2 of the 3 full casino licenses were granted in 2014, one to MGM and one to Wynn. They each have built a big one, with Wynn’s rivaling anything they have in Vegas. A third license is still being held back as the state watches how the Indian casino situation will play out.

  • When is Massachusetts expected to authorize online gambling?

    In spite of the fact that Massachusetts has been open to real money casino gambling since 2011, things do not move very fast in this state and they still haven’t handed out the 3 casino licenses that they approved back then. They have taken even longer to warm up to the idea of the state regulating and licensing real money online gambling, although they do allow fantasy sports betting. Online sports betting, betting on actual games, may be in the works soon as the state eases its way into the online gambling world.

  • Is it legal to gamble online in Massachusetts?

    Players in Massachusetts are free to engage in whatever gambling they wish as long as it is done in private, and this is not something that there is any legal uncertainty about. Massachusetts law outlaws public gambling and the only way that you can break the law gambling in private is to do it while trespassing on private property. Otherwise, it’s legal for those not trespassing to gamble in private. Online gambling is gambling in private so doing this in private is in full compliance with state law.

  • Can Massachusetts players gamble at regulated online gambling sites?

    While the state government would probably prefer players not be aware of the fact that it is legal to gamble online in Massachusetts and that there are sites licensed and regulated in other jurisdictions, as they would prefer people to wait until who knows how many years go by until the state is ready, there is no need to wait. There are plenty of great real money online gambling sites that warmly accept players from Massachusetts, if you know how to find them.

  • How can you tell which offshore real money casinos are worth playing at?

    Players tend to be more comfortable with domestic regulation, although in this case, it is due to not being familiar with the real money online gambling landscape around the world and who can be trusted to hold their money while they play on these sites. This is understandable, but this is where we come in, to offer our expertise in the global online gambling market to provide helpful and necessary advice to those who no longer want to miss out on all this fun.

Associate Writer: Simon loves to bet on sports as well as play online slots, and he has a keen eye for sorting out the honest sites from the not so honest.