Massachusetts Gambling Laws
Gambling in Massachusetts was a sedate and quiet pastime in the historic state for more than 330 years with just a little horse racing betting and a state lottery to help keep the state’s residents amused. All of a sudden, a few short years ago in 2011, the entire gambling landscape changed as casinos in Massachusetts were legalized as an incentive for the state’s residents to keep their hard-earned cash in the state’s revenue coffers, rather than being deposited in long established legal casinos in neighboring Connecticut or Rhode Island.
In that present environment, let’s take a look at where and how things currently stand in Massachusetts in regards to gambling in general and its legal standing in the state;
- Casino Games – Under the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, as many as 3 casino resorts were legislated to be opened in Massachusetts (MA). One opened in 2015 and two more are currently under development. There are no Tribal Casinos as yet in Massachusetts, although both of the states’ recognized Federal tribes have worked for years to open casinos on Tribal lands -one is expected to open in 2019. Cruise ships are deemed to be legal to run Casinos when setting sail out of Boston Harbor.
- Sports Betting – Horse and Greyhound Betting has been available in MA since 1934 & Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) was made permanently legal by the Massachusetts House in 2018. Sports betting in Massachusetts is unavailable (for the time being at least), although the House chairman, Republican Joseph Wagner has gone on the record as saying that ‘the House is researching options now to take on Massachusetts sports betting as early as 2019’.
- Betting Online – Online Gambling is deemed to be illegal in MA, however there are some exceptions. Massachusetts online gambling is available on horse race betting. Legislators are looking to answer the question of ‘is online gambling legal in MA?’ in the positive sooner rather than as to move on online gaming to protect the state’s revenues.
- Live Poker – Massachusetts Gambling Laws cover off on Legal Poker Rooms, although social poker ‘home’ games are still technically illegal in the Bay State.
- Online Poker – Despite some recent political support in MA, just like sports betting online, online poker is also still technically illegal in Massachusetts until further notice.
- Lottery Betting – Since 1972, a popular State Lottery has been operating in MA and Powerball and other multi-state lotteries are also licensed for play.
- Charitable Gambling – Massachusetts State Law allows for charitable gaming including bingo and other charitable games. Interestingly bingo games are known as ‘beano’ colloquially in MA.
Massachusetts Gambling Age
Legal Ages for different forms of gambling in Massachusetts are as follows;
- Horse Racing – 18
- Charitable Gambling – 18
- Lottery – 18
- Casino Games – 21
- Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) – 21
Massachusetts Gambling Tax
A gambling tax of 25% on all winnings over $5000 is in place in the state of Massachusetts. Smaller wins up to $1200 – $5000 are subject to a 5% state tax, up from the previous threshold of $600.
Larger wins may also incur a Federal Tax. Exact tax rates applicable for larger wins will depend upon your state of residence in the United States, contact your tax attorney if you have had a huge win.
Legal Sports Betting in Massachusetts
Massachusetts sports betting is still not quite a reality. Whilst in MA, DFS has been legislated on, and horse racing betting has been legal for almost 90 years, general sports betting will not come into being in Massachusetts it seems until 2019 at the earliest.
The state is looking to apply its own laws to the freedom offered it by the spring 2018 U.S Supreme Court ruling of giving the control of legal sports betting back to the states.
Land Based Sports Books
The legalization of land-based sports betting in Massachusetts appears as if legal options may firstly be introduced for players in the state’s land-based casinos. Legal online sportsbooks and other options may become available at a later date in time in MA.
Massachusetts Online Sports Books
When online sportsbooks in MA are becoming a reality is in the hands of state legislators. One swift masterstroke may be to include legal online sports betting and package it together with the state’s already existing online horse betting sites, although this pure conjecture. The final decision however, rests with the MA State Legislature.
Casino Gambling in Massachusetts
As a counter point to its rich and diverse history in founding and establishing the United States of America, the Bay State of Massachusetts is a relative newcomer to casino culture. Everything changed in 2011, with the passage of the Expanded Gaming Act legislating for land-based casinos. Land-based casinos now offer MA residents more than 10 250 slot machines and in excess of 430 table games.
In addition, one tribal casino is also slated to be opened in Massachusetts in 2019.
Massachusetts Online Casinos
Currently stuck in a legal bind, Massachusetts Online Casinos appear to be the political football of gambling in the state. Most recently, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has called for the immediate regulation and legalization of online casinos. He argues that if the State does not do this, then the casinos will and much-needed state revenue will be lost.
Watch this space as the story unfolds.
Horse Racing Betting in Massachusetts
For all MA State residents over the age of 18, all off track betting, course/track side and online betting options on Horse Racing are all perfectly legal in the eyes of the law.
Track Side / Off Track Betting (OTB) in Massachusetts
Track Side – Massachusetts is home to three live horse racing venues that all accept bets on simulcast horse races and live racing.
Off Track Betting (OTB) – The live racing venues in Massachusetts effectively function as the states’ official OTB agencies, plus one former greyhound racing track. No additional stand-alone OTB facilities exist in the state.
Online Horse Racing Betting in Massachusetts
Online racebooks available in Massachusetts have small initial deposit requirements and all provide the convenience of betting anytime, anywhere on a mobile device or PC. MA residents over the age of 18 all have full legal access to online horse betting sites that offer betting on races throughout the U.S.A and across the world. If you’re unable to find the time, or perhaps can’t physically get to the track or a simulcast facility to bet on big events like the Kentucky Derby, you can still place wagers on the race with an online account and all 100% legally.
Fantasy Sports Laws in Massachusetts
Massachusetts allows legal and regulated Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law legalizing DFS in 2016 and the bill was extended to permanently make DFS legal in 2018.
Massachusetts has a list of regulations in regards to DFS including:
- Players must be over 21 years of age
- No contests on college games and other amateur sporting events
- Truth in advertising standards apply
- $1,000 monthly deposit limit and;
- Entries are limited to the lesser of 150 or three percent.
How DFS works
DFS is a radically different form of sports betting. Betting on your favorite teams to win and lose plays no part. Intrigued? Read on.
In DFS betting, you become a ‘virtual team manager or owner’, and you are required to keep within a ‘virtual’ salary cap, which you use to ‘buy’ players for your DFS team. Overbudget teams cannot be registered for DFS competitions and when attempting to lodge an overbudget team, the system will generate an ‘error’ message.
Using the example of an NFL DFS league for example;
The idea is to assemble a team that amasses the most touchdowns, yards gained, receptions, tackles, sacks etc., and other key statistics each week or over the course of the season.
In an NFL DFS league, participants can choose a new fantasy NFL team each week: investing a fixed amount of (imaginary) money, spending from that budget on quarterbacks, tight ends, wide receivers, special teams, punt returners, defensive linemen etc. Every player has their own individual price tag determined by the fantasy sports operators, and those price tags are usually determined by player performance throughout their individual careers and the current season.
For example, a superstar quarterback like Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints will potentially cost a lot more than a struggling Jacoby Brissett of the Indianapolis Colts.
‘Paying’ for substantially more for a player like Brees, can potentially leave a DFS contestant with less remaining in their virtual budget to spend on other quality players for their fantasy team.
The best DFS players out there are superb ‘budget balancers’ and can squeeze the most points out of every penny that they ‘spend’.
The major U.S. sporting leagues all have DFS leagues running in both in their regular seasons and play-offs.
DFS players can potentially win $1 million or more in each of the sports’ DFS league each week.
Poker in Massachusetts
Is it legal to play Poker online or in casinos in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has 4 Poker Rooms (65 tables available), and additionally, Poker is also played 100% legally in the state’s casinos. On the other hand, unlicensed Poker and other forms of unlicensed games are frowned upon by Massachusetts lawmakers.
Outside of these live Poker options, some limited Poker tournaments are offered in charity gambling venues.
Social ‘home’ games are not exactly legal, although the laws pertaining to them are quite murky in Massachusetts. While MA state law is clear that a Social Poker player who loses any money or thing of value may reclaim that loss, by law, within three months, however, the actual legality of playing home poker games is not referenced directly under Massachusetts General Law.
Online Poker Laws
For the time being at least, please presume until further notice that online poker is still illegal in Massachusetts.
eSports Betting in Massachusetts
In the spring of 2018, Sports Betting got new life in the United States as the highest legal body in the land, the Federal Supreme Court eliminated the 26-year-old law that banned sports betting. Today, all 50 states are free to legislate on their own sports-betting laws.
Given its role as a sport that has developed rather recently (and therefore not touched by the legal quibbling of the past by all the major U.S. sporting leagues), eSports betting may very well lead the sports betting legalization way in Massachusetts just as it has done in other states.
Blossoming with the dissemination of global technology and increasingly fast internet speeds, eSports has changed quality video game play into full-time professional sports, whereby leading players now sign multi-million-dollar contracts with professional teams.
Team tournament play rather than individual competition is generally how eSports are played at their highest levels. However, champion individual eSports stars can have cult global followings and the contrasting styles of the top eSports athletes are loved and copied by amateur players the world over.
eSports games themselves like Fortnite, Starcraft and Overwatch are equivalent to, say, the NBA, NFL and MLB, with the phrase ‘eSports’ describing the broad overarching concept (like Sports).
eSports betting has become widespread and a big global business. Sportsbooks worldwide offer betting markets on all major eSports tournaments played globally. eSports business revenue grows massively year-on-year, and in 2018-19, the revenue of the industry is expected to reach the $100 billion mark worldwide.
It may be possible that the initial legal sports bet you make in Massachusetts, could possibly be a wager on eSports.
History of Gambling in Massachusetts
New legislation on sport betting legalization appears to be coming soon to Massachusetts.
See our timeline tracking the history of gambling in the Bay State, and in particular, all the big changes since 2011;
1934 – Betting on Horse Racing in Massachusetts was first made legal. Simulcast Betting from other tracks and states was added at later from approved centers.
1972 – Massachusetts first State Lottery was sold. The states lottery allows for lottery type game to be played on video terminals where tickets are purchased, and the state also allows multi-state jackpot lotteries like Powerball.
Currently, there is some debate as to the legalization of online lotteries.
2011– Casino Bill passes allowing for 1 slots parlor and 3 land-based casinos
2013 – First Casino Licenses are handed out.
2014 – Mashpee Wampanoag is granted a Tribal Casino license and the casino is expected to open in 2019.
2015 – Massachusetts’ first land-based casino opened its doors.
2016 – DFS first legalized with full permanent legalization of DFS finalized by the State Legislature in 2018.
Spring 2019? – Introduction of fully legalized sports betting in Massachusetts?