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Massachusetts Online Gambling Laws

Like all other states, Massachusetts prohibits all forms of gambling, except those exempt by law. Operators of illegal gambling activities face far more severe punishment than those who take part in an illegal gambling activity as mere players. In fact those convicted of organizing or promoting an illegal gambling activity can face up to 15 years in prison. It is illegal to engage in gambling in a public place. It is also illegal to use or keep a gambling device.

Massachusetts Gambling Laws Concerning Online Gambling

Massachusetts gambling law does not specifically address online poker or online gambling. It is currently not legal to operate an online gambling site in Massachusetts. There are however multiple gambling sites which are legally licensed and regulated, and located outside of the United States. Several of these sites welcome players from Massachusetts and are embraced as legal Massachusetts online gambling options. These sites include online gambling opportunities at online poker rooms and online casinos accepting MA players. There are also a number of Massachusetts sports betting sites and bingo halls.

While online gambling remains somewhat unaddressed in the state statutes, there is a mention of the use of telephone for gaming purposes. Massachusetts gambling law specifically prohibits the use of telephone for illegal gambling. The punishment for using a telephone for illegal gambling purpose is a fine that can extend up to two thousand dollars or a jail term not exceeding one year.

History Of Gambling Laws In Massachusetts

When the first settlers arrived on the mainland, many of them made Massachusetts their home. The Puritans among them did not allow gambling or anything remotely associated with gambling. In the 1800s when other states were trying to set up lotteries, Massachusetts openly sided with and helped those who opposed the setting up of such lotteries. In 1950, when four states voted against casino gambling, Massachusetts was one of them. Despite this long anti-gambling history, Massachusetts permits certain forms of gambling.

Massachusetts Gambling Laws Concerning Pari Mutuel Wagering

Pari mutuel wagering on horse and dog harness racing is legal in Massachusetts. The State Racing Commission was set up way back in 1934. Once the State Racing Commission was set up, a thoroughbred track called the Suffolk Downs was built. The track continues to operate even today. Harness and greyhound racing are extremely popular with the residents of the state. The Plainridge Racecourses is the only other operating racing facility in the state.

Massachusetts Poker Gambling Laws

Home poker games are legal as long as it is not being played in a public place or public conveyance. Under Massachusetts gambling law, a home poker game in which one of the players is a trespasser who happens to be on the property is illegal. Players of illegal home poker games can be fined up to $50 and may be sent to jail for up to 3 months. The host of an illegal home poker game can be fined up to $50 and imprisoned for up to a year. A home poker game would be illegal if the host charges a fee or rakes the pot. The players cannot be made to make any contribution in any form and the winner cannot receive anything of value. It is not legal to operate an online poker site within the state of MA. For this reason, we recommend that players restrict their poker game play to legally licensed and regulated Massachusetts online poker sites that are located outside of the US within territories that have specifically legalized online poker gambling.

Land Based Gambling Laws In Massachusetts

There are no land based casinos (including Indian tribal casinos) in Massachusetts. However things may change soon. Last year, the state voted to allow three resort style casinos to be set up in the state. The state is also negotiating with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build the first Indian tribal casino in the state.

Charitable gambling conducted by qualifying organizations is legal. Qualifying organizations include:

Massachusetts gambling law limits the amount of prize money to $25. There is no limit on the value of merchandise that can be given away as prizes.

In 1971 Massachusetts legalized the lottery. In the early part of 1993, the Massachusetts lottery commission started to investigate the possibility of starting keno gambling as part of the state lottery commission's stable of games. Since keno is a combination of bingo and instant lottery games, the commission assumed that it could institute this game as long as it informed the appropriate legislative committees. Keno gambling was approved by the state legislature, and the lottery commissioner agreed to seek the approval of the legislature before instituting any new gambling initiatives.

Proposals for establishing video poker at racetracks were filed in the legislature early in 1993. However, legislators from the section of Massachusetts that was nearest Rhode Island were clamoring to expand the scope of video poker games for Massachusetts by allowing video poker games to be placed not only at racetracks but also in bars and restaurants. However, once the scope of video poker gaming was to be expanded to all forms of public entertainment, supporters of this industry pointed out the devastating consequences that video poker would have on horse and dog racing industries. Hence, the proposal was killed.

Efforts To Legalize Online Gambling In Massachusetts

In 2011 and 2012 State Representative Dan Winslow made attempts to push for online poker but on both occasions, he was unsuccessful. As of today, there is no bill seeking to regulate online poker that is pending in the state legislature.

Federal Laws Concerning Massachusetts Online Gambling

Some players mistakenly assume that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits US players from participating in legally licensed online gambling. This is not true at all. The UIGEA bill simply places strict regulatory oversight on how the online gambling transactions can be processed. In fact, it does not address players at all but rather places the burden of regulatory adherence on the shoulders of the gambling site operators and payment processors. This federal law does not prohibit players from participating in online gambling.

Massachusetts Gambling Laws

For those individuals who are interested in reviewing the state's laws and statutes in their original context, please visit the Massachusetts State Legislature Website for direct access to digital copies of the official documents.

**This site and the information therein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for professional legal advice, services, or professional interpretation of the law. If you are seeking those types of services, we recommend that you contact a lawyer. We are not attorneys, nor are we qualified to provide any type of professional legal services or interpretation of the law.