Gambling in Massachusetts

Locations of major gambling sites in Massachusetts

Black pog.svg Racetrack
Blue pog.svg Racetrack and slot parlor
Orange pog.svg Resort casino
Red pog.svg Planned Indian casino
Yellow pog.svg Simulcast wagering facility

Legal forms of gambling in the U.S. state of Massachusetts include casinos, parimutuel wagering on horse racing, the Massachusetts Lottery, and charitable gaming. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulates commercial operations under state jurisdiction.

Horse and dog racingEdit

Parimutuel wagering on horse racing is allowed at the state's two active racetracks, Plainridge Racecourse and Suffolk Downs. Simulcast wagering on horse and dog races is also offered at Raynham Park, which previously operated as a dog racing track.[1]

Betting on horse and dog racing was legalized in 1934.[2]

The first dog tracks were Wonderland Greyhound Park and Taunton Dog Track, opened in 1935.[3][4] They were joined in 1941 by Raynham Greyhound Park.[3] The Taunton track closed in 1981,[5] and its operations were absorbed into the Raynham track, which became known as Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park.[3] Both remaining tracks closed by the end of 2009, when dog racing was banned by the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act.[6]

Harness racing began in 1947 at Bay State Raceway (later named Foxboro Raceway).[7] Suffolk Downs included the sport in its calendar from 1959 to 1970.[8] Foxboro closed in 1997 and was replaced in 1999 with the opening of Plainridge.[9]

In addition to the major tracks, wagering was also conducted on horse and dog races at agricultural fairs around the state, including the Northampton Fair, Marshfield Fair, Great Barrington Fair, Weymouth Fair, Berkshire County Fair (at Berkshire Downs), Brockton Fair, and Topsfield Fair.[10][11] Race fixing was notoriously common at these meets.[10][12] This fair circuit came to an end when the last remaining venue, Northampton, held its final racing meet in 2005.[10]


A ticket from the first public lottery in Massachusetts, authorized in 1745

The Massachusetts Lottery offers draw games and scratchcards. The Lottery also offers pull tabs for sale at bars.[13]

Private lotteries were common in early colonial history, but as public attitudes turned against them, Massachusetts banned all lotteries in 1719.[14][15] The province's first public lottery was authorized in 1745, to pay for expenses related to King George's War.[16][17] At least fifteen lotteries were authorized from 1749 to 1761, until the Lords of Trade expressed their disapproval of the practice,[18] effectively banning public lotteries in Massachusetts until the American Revolution, when lotteries again became frequent, until a new ban was enacted in 1833.[19] The modern Lottery was created in 1971 and held its first drawings the following year.[20]

Charitable gamingEdit

Eligible non-profit organizations are allowed to operate certain gambling games for fundraising purposes, including bridge and whist,[21] bingo (also called "beano"), raffles, pull tabs, and casino nights (referred to as "bazaars").[22] Senior citizen organizations ("golden age clubs") are also allowed to run bingo games with little oversight, with prizes of $100 or less.[23]

As of 2017, the total annual gross revenues reported for charitable gaming were about $57 million, with $25 million from bingo, $12 million from pull tabs, $19 million from raffles, and $300,000 from bazaars.[24] There were 116 licensed charitable bingo operators.[25]

Several poker rooms throughout the state operate under the casino night law, with daily games benefitting a rotating set of charities.[26]

Whist and bridge fundraisers were legalized in 1932.[27] Beano was legalized in 1934,[27] but then banned in 1943 because racketeers were operating games using charities as fronts.[28][29] Raffles and bazaars were authorized in 1969.[27][30] Beano was re-legalized in 1971, with a local election required in each city or town to allow it.[31]


List of casinosEdit

Casino City Type Owner/Operator
Aquinnah Gaming (planned) Aquinnah Indian casino Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
Encore Boston Harbor Everett Resort casino Wynn Resorts
MGM Springfield Springfield Resort casino MGM Resorts International
Plainridge Park Casino Plainville Slot parlor Gaming and Leisure Properties / Penn National Gaming
Project First Light (planned) Taunton Indian casino Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Indian casinosEdit

Both of the state's federally recognized tribes have worked for several years to open gaming facilities on tribal lands, under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hopes to open a casino on land in Taunton. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) plans a small gaming facility in Aquinnah, on Martha's Vineyard.

The Mashpee tribe gained federal recognition in 2007, and in 2015 received approval for land to be taken into trust for a casino.[32] Construction on the casino, referred to as Project First Light, began in 2016, located in an industrial park.[33] Later that year, however, a court overturned the land-into-trust approval, and work on the project was suspended.[34] The casino remained in legal limbo as of 2019.[35]

The Aquinnah tribe announced plans in 2013 for their Class II gaming facility in an unfinished community center.[36] The state quickly sued to block the project, arguing that the tribe gave up gambling rights in a 1983 land settlement, in which the tribe agreed its lands would be subject to state law. The tribe argued that this agreement was superseded by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.[37] The tribe prevailed in the legal fight in 2018, and began moving ahead with plans to build the casino at a new site on their reservation.[38]

Commercial casinosEdit

Under the Expanded Gaming Act, passed in 2011, as many as three casino resorts and one slot parlor can be opened.[39] A slot parlor opened at Plainridge Park Casino in 2015, and two casino resorts, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, opened in 2018 and 2019, respectiely. One more casino license may be issued for the southeastern part of the state, but the process has been delayed due to uncertainty about potential competition from the planned Mashpee Wampanoag casino.[40]

Casino cruisesEdit

Gambling boats have operated at times out of Massachusetts harbors, taking passengers on "cruises to nowhere" in federal waters, where state gambling laws do not apply.[41] The first was the Vegas Express cruise, which sailed out of Gloucester from 1998 to 1999.[42][43] The Southern Elegance and the El Dorado set out from Gloucester starting in 1999,[44] as did the Midnight Gambler out of Lynn,[45] before it moved to Provincetown and operated for six weeks in 2000.[46] Another boat, run by Atlantic Casino Cruises, ran out of Gloucester from 2002 to 2003.[47][48] The Lynn harbor also played host to the Horizon's Edge casino cruise, from 2000 to 2009,[49][50] and the Aquasino, which ran for several months in 2013.[51]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Michael Norton (December 31, 2014). "Horse wagering may be allowed to continue at Suffolk Downs via broadcast after live racing ends". The Republican. Springfield, MA. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  2. ^ "Chapter 374: An act authorizing the licensing of horse and dog races on which the pari-mutuel system of betting shall be permitted" (PDF). Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court. Massachusetts General Court. 1934. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  3. ^ a b c Charles Winokoor (December 29, 2013). "Taunton Gazette Newsmaker of the Year George Carney reflects on journey". Taunton Gazette. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
  4. ^ Steven Rosenberg (February 14, 2010). "Race to the finish". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
  5. ^ Bob Kinsley (December 12, 1981). "Taunton closing not all bad". Boston Globe. ProQuest 294107406.  – via ProQuest (subscription required)
  6. ^ Eric Moskowitz (December 26, 2009). "The final lap for greyhounds in Mass". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
  7. ^ Tim Bojarski (August 26, 2014). "Ghost Tracks X: Bay State Raceway". Hoof Beats. United States Trotting Association. Archived from the original on 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2015-01-11.
  8. ^ Christian Teja (2005). Suffolk Downs. Arcadia Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 9781439632468 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Ed Gray (April 20, 1999). "Plainridge harnesses big opening crowd". Boston Herald – via NewsBank.
  10. ^ a b c Bill Finley (December 21, 2005). "Thanks for the memories". ESPN Horse Racing. Retrieved 2015-01-11.
  11. ^ "Racing is big business at Massachusetts fairs". Billboard. December 20, 1952. p. 54 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Andrew Beyer (1980). My $50,000 Year at the Races. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 107. ISBN 9780547839783 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ "Lottery Agents". Massachusetts Lottery. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  14. ^ Patrick Alan Pierce; Donald E. Miller (2004). Gambling Politics: State Government and the Business of Betting. Lynne Riener Publishers. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781588262684.
  15. ^ "Chapter 8: An act for the suppression of lotteries" (PDF). Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court. Massachusetts General Court. 1719. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
  16. ^ David A. Copeland (2000). Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 123. ISBN 9780313309823.
  17. ^ "Chapter 20: An act for raising, by a lottery, the sum of seven thousand five hundred pounds, for the service of this province in the present year" (PDF). Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court. Massachusetts General Court. 1745. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
  18. ^ Charles Henry James Douglas (1892). The Financial History of Massachusetts: From the Organization of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the American Revolution. pp. 347–49.
  19. ^ A. R. Spofford (1892). "Lotteries in American History". Annual Report of the American History Association: 178–81.
  20. ^ Nils J. Bruzelius (January 17, 1973). "Massachusetts Lottery notches gains in first year". The Telegraph. Nashua, NH. AP – via Google News.
  21. ^ Massachusetts General Court. "Chapter 271, Section 22A: Whist or bridge for charitable and similar purposes". Massachusetts General Law. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
  22. ^ "Charitable Games". Massachusetts Lottery. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  23. ^ Massachusetts General Court. "Chapter 10, Section 38: Beano; licensing of certain organizations; restrictions; rules and regulations; violations; penalties; receipts and expenditures; records and reports". Massachusetts General Law. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  24. ^ Charitable Games 2013 Annual Report (PDF) (Report). Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. p. 1. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  25. ^ Charitable Games 2017 Annual Report (PDF) (Report). Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. p. 4. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  26. ^ Noah Bierman (April 29, 2011). "Charity poker venues thriving". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-01-19.
  27. ^ a b c Andy Metzger (September 27, 2011). "Massachusetts bingo halls may face last call". The Enterprise. Brockton, MA. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
  28. ^ "Beano nixed in Mass. vote; favorers howl". Billboard. November 25, 1944 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ "Legal beano bill passes Mass. House after debate". The Telegraph. Nashua, NH. AP. September 2, 1959.
  30. ^ "Chap. 810: An act authorizing certain organizations to conduct raffles and bazaars" (PDF). Acts and resolves passed by the General Court. Massachusetts General Court. pp. 757–760. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
  31. ^ "Massachusetts legalizes beano with town control". Norwalk Hour. UPI. July 2, 1971.
  32. ^ Marc Larocque (September 21, 2015). "Mashpee Wampanoag, Taunton officials celebrate victory in pursuit of casino". The Enterprise. Brockton, MA. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  33. ^ Philip Marcelo (April 5, 2016). "Tribe breaks ground on Massachusetts' latest casino project". WBUR-FM. Boston, MA. AP. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  34. ^ Haven Orecchio-Egresitz (September 30, 2016). "Mashpee tribe given voice in Taunton land trust suit". The Enterprise. Brockton, MA. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  35. ^ Tanner Stening (January 2, 2019). "Judge denies government request for stay in Cape tribe's lawsuit". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  36. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye (November 12, 2013). "Tribe claims approval for Martha's Vineyard casino, reviving fight". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
  37. ^ Mark Arsenault (December 2, 2013). "State files lawsuit to block Martha's Vineyard casino". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
  38. ^ Noah Asimow (September 6, 2018). "Selectmen seek meeting with tribe on bingo hall". Vineyard Gazette. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  39. ^ "Expanded Gaming Act". Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  40. ^ Robert Rizzuto (November 20, 2014). "Mass. Gaming Commission considers moving Region C casino licensing deadline to January 2015". The Republican. Springfield, MA. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
  41. ^ David L. Greene (October 11, 1999). "Vegas touch in old port". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
  42. ^ Bernard J. Wolfson (July 23, 1998). "State laws can't sink Gloucester gambling cruises". Boston Herald – via NewsBank.
  43. ^ Tom Walsh (March 16, 2002). "Casino boats may return to Gloucester next month". Boston Herald – via NewsBank.
  44. ^ "Bill filed to limit the number of gambling boats". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. AP. July 3, 1999 – via NewsBank.
  45. ^ Ralph Ranalli (August 13, 1999). "New gambling boat sets sail from Lynn". Boston Herald – via NewsBank.
  46. ^ Emily C. Dooley (August 17, 2000). "Gambling boat fails to pay up". Cape Cod Times – via NewsBank.
  47. ^ Steven Rosenberg (June 20, 2002). "High stakes at sea for gambling man: Casino boat may set sail this weekend". Boston Globe. ProQuest 405478950.  – via ProQuest (subscription required)
  48. ^ Frederick N. Rasmussen (May 10, 2008). "Whatever happened to ... the Port Welcome?". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
  49. ^ Amy Baratta (April 13, 2000). "On a roll! New England's gaming fans are hitting the jackpot". Boston Herald – via NewsBank.
  50. ^ Robin Kaminski (July 23, 2009). "Lynn settles suit with casino boat". The Daily Item. Lynn, MA – via NewsBank.
  51. ^ Chris Stevens (March 26, 2014). "End appears in sight for Aquasino". The Daily Item. Lynn, MA. Retrieved 2015-01-05.

External linksEdit