Massachusetts Poker & Gambling Laws

Massachusetts Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Legal Gambling Laws in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has played host to some of the biggest poker tournaments and cash games in the world - some legal, some probably a little less so given the state's colorful history.  Some of the biggest games of all, however, almost certainly took place in a bedroom, possibly a living room or home office - thanks to the innovation of online poker. 

How people in Massachusetts can play online poker, what Massachusetts law has to saying about playing poker online and where it fits in with the state's approach to gambling at large are all topics surveyed in our Online Poker & Massachusetts Guide.

Online Poker in Massachusetts

Top Legal Online Poker Sites for Massachusetts

No matter what state they're from, all US online poker players want the same things: Good games, easy deposits, quick cashouts.  Same for Massachusetts poker players, so that's why we focused on those core needs when building our list of the top poker sites for real-money play that accept Massachusetts customers:

Can Poker Players From Massachusetts Play Poker Online?

Sure - and it's about as easy as setting up an account to buy a pair of pants at an online retailer.  You'll just need to create an account, select a deposit method and then you'll be at the tables with other poker players, from Massachusetts and across the globe.  All of the major US-friendly online poker networks accept players from the state of Massachusetts. If you want to play online poker in Massachusetts, we suggest you read the reviews on this page to find out which poker sites have real money games in Massachusetts

Online Poker Legal in Massachusetts

How does the law in Massachusetts treat online poker?  Are players in violation of state law when they engage in real-money poker games online?  Some of the laws on the books in Massachusetts that pertain to gambling were authored well before the Internet was even a concept, so applying those laws to new technology can be a tricky endeavor. 
The full text of Massachusetts law is online here [1].  Below we've excerpted and summarized some of the key points for online poker players from Massachusetts:

  1. The term "lottery" means something different in Massachusetts law than in common useage.  Basically, "lottery" is somewhat akin to what other state laws call "gambling."
  2. Massachusetts law uses the term "gaming" and not "gambling" in much (although not all) of the law.  The definition of "gaming" is found in Chapter 4, Section 7: ""Gaming", "illegal gaming" or "unlawful gaming" shall include every act punishable under any law relative to lotteries, policy lotteries or policy, the buying and selling of pools or registering of bets."  Note that the definition essentially treats "gaming" and "illegal gaming" as the same thing - all gaming is illegal unless otherwise specified.
  3. There are a number of individual charges related both to participating in illegal gambling and operating illegal gambling.  Gambling in a "public" place is illegal (Chapter 271, Section 2) as is keeping a gambling device and using a gambling device.
  4. The law of Massachusetts doesn't address Internet poker directly, but using a telephone "for gaming purposes" is illegal.  "Whoever uses a telephone [...] for the purpose of accepting wagers or bets, or buying or selling of pools, or for placing all or any portion of a wager with another, upon the result of a trial or contest of skill, speed, or endurance of man, beast, bird, or machine, or upon the result of an athletic game or contest … shall be punished by a fine of not more than two thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year" (Chapter 271, Section 17A)
  5. There are substantial penalties in store for individuals who operate an illegal gambling business of a certain size in Massachusetts.  The charge of "organizing or promoting gambling facilities or services" (Chapter 271, Section 16A) can bring up to 15 years in state prison.

With stakes so high, players must seek out a qualified legal opinion before engaging in unregulated gambling activity.  This page is not a substitute for such an opinion - it's only intended to help you gain a basic understanding of Massachusetts gambling law.

Will Massachusetts Regulate Online Poker?

We believe that Massachusetts has a much better chance than the typical state to introduce a state-regulated online poker product to residents in the near term.  The issue has already been raised by several of the key stakeholders in the state, including industry and legislative voices, suggesting that work is already occurring behind the scenes.  There's obviously a good deal of distance between that and passing an online poker bill, but it's still enough progress to put Massachusetts' chances above other states.

Massachusetts Gambling Facts

History of Gambling in Massachusetts

While gambling played a role in many of the early colonies, perhaps nowhere was the influence of bets and wagers more pronounced than Massachusetts.  According to Gov. Deval Patrick [2], his dorm at Harvard was paid for by a lottery, as was local landmark Faneuil Hall.  While the gambling roots run deep, there have also been long stretches of time during which no regulated gambling was available to residents.  Today, gambling has resumed its place of prominence in the state, contributing hundreds of millions in revenue, wages and economic activity.

Regulated Gambling Options in Massachusetts

Regulated gambling activities in Massachusetts run the gamut, from the state lottery to the multiple casinos (both commercial and tribal) that are spread across the state's map.  On top of those options, you also can engage in charitable gambling (when properly licensed) and pari-mutuel wagering year-round in Massachusetts.

Does Massachusetts Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

Not yet, but all signs point to the state introducing some regulated online gambling options in the near future.  We believe the lottery will likely come online first, but online poker could follow close behind.  That is, for the moment, all hypothetical -  as of this article, Massachusetts doesn't have any online gambling regulated or licensed directly by the state.

Recent Massachusetts Gambling Headlines

Since Massachusetts legislators approved a plan to bring casinos to the state, almost all of the news has concerned which company will win [3] one of the coveted - and limited - licenses.  Receiving less attention, but no less critical to the future of gambling in the state, are the ongoing negotiations between the government and the Mashpee Wampanoag [4] tribe over the tribe's plans to build a casino of their own.

Massachusetts Gambling Resources

Boston.com Casino Gambling Coverage [5]All the news and updates relating to regulated gambling in the state of Massachusetts from local news and national wire services.

University of Massachusetts Casino Report [6].  A comprehensive report that details the pros and cons of regulated gambling and poker in the state.  Provides a good capsule look at the impact of casino expansion on regions, communities and individuals.

Gambling and Taxes in Massachusetts [7].  The definitive word on how gambling and poker-related income should be handled in terms of state taxes in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts's Place in Poker History

As one might expect given the popularity of poker in Massachusetts, there are a number of well-known poker players who hail from the state.  Two names that will be immediately recognizable to fans of poker: Dan Harrington, who is a WSOP legend thanks to his back-to-back final table appearances and author of the seminal "Harrington on Hold'em" series, and Bernard Lee, media personality and poker player best known for his deep run in the 2005 Main Event of the WSOP.
One other link to Massachusetts that should always occupy a place of respect in poker lore: now-retired Congressman Barney Frank, who was a longtime and tireless advocate for online poker after the passage of the UIGEA.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Massachusetts Online Poker