Massachusetts has never really been known for commercial gambling endeavors. The Bay State is one of the few in the United States that has a minimal history of gambling of any sort. Nevertheless, it would be false to say the state has not had to deal with gambling at all. The Bay State also doesn’t have a history with online poker, and the concept is still very strange to most gamblers in the state.
Nevertheless, there have been efforts from gambling enthusiasts and enterprises to popularize online poker in Massachusetts. However, every attempt has been met with very strong opposition. Home to over 6.9 million people, Massachusetts has managed to keep online poker relatively unnoticed.
A few licensed live casinos and daily fantasy sports are prevalent in the state. The presence of these regulated gambling enterprises is an indication that the future of Massachusetts online poker, however limited and disregarded now, holds the possibility for growth.
This piece contains a detailed review of the history of poker in Massachusetts and recounts relevant events in the journey to seek legislation and establish online poker in Massachusetts. It aims to answer questions about the current scene of online gambling in the Bay State.
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Is Online Poker Legal in Massachusetts?
One of the most common questions is about the legality of playing poker for real money in Massachusetts, and it’s also one of the most controversial. The answer is not simple. Playing online poker is not entirely legal in Massachusetts. Playing online poker for real money is not entirely illegal either, as the state’s laws are unclear. This absence of legal attention to online poker in Massachusetts is probably because most of the state’s laws were passed and signed before internet gambling became a concern.
However, playing online poker for real money in Massachusetts cannot be considered legal, as the laws do directly refer to mobile gambling. For this reason, it is tricky to ascertain if the law directly or indirectly refers to phone-based gambling that uses an internet connection.
In essence, there are no legal online poker service providers in Massachusetts. Also, the state laws don’t allow citizens to participate in gambling on offshore poker service providers who choose to offer their services to natives of the state. On the other hand, there are no binding consequences for anyone playing at these offshore sites, and you will not necessarily attract attention from law enforcement if you do so.
In summary, the laws surrounding online poker in Massachusetts are unclear. That being said, there are currently no legal licenses for Massachusetts online poker service providers. Hence, organizing poker online in Massachusetts is probably a criminal offense.
History of Online Poker Massachusetts
The Bay State didn’t have any form of gambling until the 1700s, when people began playing cards on gaming tables in casinos. Casino-based gambling in the state then became widespread until 1788, when popular opinion caused the state to outlaw the playing of cards and dice on casino tables. By 1832, laws that banned all kinds of gambling, including lottery games, were fully enacted and enforced.
This continued until 1972, when the state lottery was re-legalized. Massachusetts’ lottery was then the only legal gambling enterprise to be fully functional in the state until 2011. The Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, signed on November 22nd by Governor Deval Patrick, legalized casino-style gaming in the state. However, the licenses of these casinos were heavily regulated and limited to only three resort casinos, only one of which had slot machines.
These legal casinos were not allowed to organize online poker, live poker, or even live table games, and these were only some of the restrictions placed on them. Nonetheless, gamblers could still play normal slot and video poker games at these casinos. Table games could only be played on electronic machines. The bills of 2011 did not make any direct references to online poker.
When Will Online Poker Be Legal in Massachusetts?
There is no definite answer but it seems online poker may become legal in Massachusetts in the future. Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker recently signed House Bill 5164 into law to make online sports betting legal in the state. Operators of land-based casinos or racetracks in the states will be able to apply for licenses, while seven online licenses will be available. This is a great sign and indication that online casinos, including online poker, may be next.
Legalization begins to look more likely if you consider the tax benefits involved. According to estimates, Massachusetts has debts of more than $70 billion. Therefore, legalizing online gambling and poker will help the state boost revenue and perhaps clear debts. However, for now, there are no active bills involving online poker in the works.
Massachusetts’ Online Gambling Laws
Massachusetts legal gambling started with dog racing and horse racing. Parimutuel betting was legalized as far back as 1934.MA commercial casinos were then regulated by the Expanded Gaming Act, which also led to the establishment of The Massachusetts Gaming Commission. This commission was tasked with regulating the new sector. Now, Massachusetts has one slot casino and two licensed casinos.
In 2015, the Plainridge Park Casino kicked off its dedicated slots location. However, it was not until 2018 that Massachusetts had its first full commercial casino, MGM Springfield. In June 2019, the Encore Boston Harbor came into the equation to offer casino games to players. According to the law, Massachusetts can accommodate one more casino, but there are no solid plans in place yet.
Massachusetts went on to legalize DFS gambling in 2016. Recently, it legalized only sports betting, allowing players to wager for real money on licensed sportsbooks. However, there is no legal online sportsbook in the state right now.
Can You Play Real Money Online Poker in Massachusetts?
There are presently no legal options for players who want to play online Poker for real money in Massachusetts. However, this does not mean there are no options available. Players residing in MA can easily register on offshore casino sites since they are overseas and don’t fall under the regulations of the state.
Even though these online casino sites are not legal, they are not also illegal. They operate in a gray area of the law and you won’t get into trouble playing on these sites. However, similar to sites that are not regulated, there is a possibility of registering on the wrong one.
Fortunately, we have done the hard work for you and vetted some of the best options you can check out today.
This online casino has one of the best interfaces available. Players in Massachusetts can register on this platform without issues and play various poker titles, including Omaha and Texas hold ’em. Buy-ins are ideal for all budgets, with values ranging from $6 to $500 if you want to play on high-stake tables.
New players who sign up on this site are eligible for a 200% deposit bonus of up to $1,000 to play poker titles. You’ll need to deposit at least $25 to activate this offer, and you can use it on any table.
In addition, Everygame offers tons of other promotions, including a loyalty program that offers you Poker points. You can trade this for various bonuses or claim a seat in the numerous poker tournaments. Everygame can be accessed on both PC and mobile devices via its highly functional mobile app. With this, you can play poker titles and win real cash from any part of Massachusetts.
This is one of the most extensive online poker sites that cater to players in Massachusetts. It was developed in 2004 and uses proprietary poker software that has become more reliable over the years. Players enjoy top-notch graphics alongside responsive and quick gameplay when they opt to play poker here.
Bovada has a poker room comprising more than 15 online poker tables extending across various poker titles. You’ll find games like Caribbean stud, Omaha hi/lo, and five-card poker. Buy-ins are also fair, with options as low as $5 up to $200.
New players who register on this site are eligible for a 100% deposit match bonus of up to $500. It also boasts weekly high stake poker tournaments like the $1 Million Windfalls, Sunday leaderboard challenges, and many more. Like other leading sites, Bovada casino is fully mobile-compatible and allows you to play using your browser or dedicated poker app.
BetOnline is a very popular destination for players who want to enjoy poker games in the US, including Massachusetts. It has a very appealing poker room consisting of 30 unique tables, and poker games like Texas hold ’em, Caribbean stud, five-card, three-card, and many others. It uses proprietary software that ensures unique and quality experiences for players.
New players who register on this site are eligible for a 100$ deposit match bonus of up to $1,000. However, this requires a $50 minimum deposit. Nonetheless, BetOnline makes up for this with its other promotions, which include frequent pot limit and no-limit tournaments with reasonable buy-ins. Players can win up to $50,000 per night, which is excellent news if you are a skillful player.
If you enjoy anonymous gameplay, BetOnline supports payments via cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin. Lastly, it has dedicated mobile apps for IOS and Android devices, allowing you to wager on poker for real money regardless of your device.
Are Sweepstake Poker Sites Legal in Massachusetts?
Yes, sweepstake poker sites are legal in Massachusetts. These sites are legal in almost every state in the US, aside from Washington. This is because, unlike other real-money sites, sweepstakes allows you to play free games.
The best part is that sweepstake casinos offer the same games as your typical casino. However, on these sites, you don’t need cash to participate, nor does it enhance your chances of winning. Instead, you win prizes based on luck, and since the cash element has been taken out of the equation, these casinos are legal.
Most sweepstake sites offer more slot titles and table games. However, options like Global Poker allow you to play poker online. Let’s take a detailed look at this site below.
Global Poker is a sweepstakes site that was developed in 2017. It offers players in most US states, including Massachusetts, the chance to play poker and other casino games. This casino has a license from the Malta Gaming Authority, one of the leading bodies in the casino scene, so your safety is guaranteed.
You don’t have to download any app to play on this site, as it is fully functional on mobile and works via your browser. Since it uses a sweepstake model, players in Massachusetts don’t require any cash deposit to get started here. Instead, you play using gold coins and sweep coins, which you get for free when you register on the site.
In terms of poker, the selection at Global Poker is very extensive. You can play variants like fixed limit hold’ em, no-limit hold’ em, pot-limit Omaha, and many others. It also features a variety of tournaments that come with highly rewarding payouts.
This site has a 5% poker rake which is decent, and you can be certain of significant traffic when you play. You won’t have to wait for too long as table games fill up quickly. One unique benefit of playing on this site is that new players who register are credited $40 in gold coins. There is also a deposit bonus of 200,000 gold coins and 40 free sweep coins when you buy a coin package worth $20.
In the event of issues, Global Poker has a reliable support team that you can contact via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org 24/7. The team is very experienced and always willing to help.
Live Poker in Massachusetts
If you are willing to look offline in your quest to play poker in MA, there are two licensed casinos in the state. These are the MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor. These casinos have some poker rooms where you can enjoy poker games. Here’s a more detailed look into what you can find in these casinos.
Encore Boston Harbor
This casino has one of the biggest poker rooms, consisting of 74 tables. You’ll find 75 TVs, tableside food service, complimentary drinks, and free Wi-Fi at this casino. All these services have been implemented to ensure you have an amazing poker experience.
This casino also offers a range of promotions like “comp dollars.” This is attached to all games on offer, including poker. In addition to the poker room, this casino has numerous bars, restaurants, spas, etc. These make for good distractions when you want to take a break from playing poker.
The MGM Springfield is much smaller than Encore, with only 23 poker tables. However, this casino runs 24/7 tournaments and cash games and places a lot of emphasis on poker tournaments.
You will find numerous tournaments weekly, all of which offer competition and amazing prizes. Examples of tournaments that have taken place here include $100 NLHE Turbo, $250 NLHE with $50k GTD and many more.
Aside from numerous poker tournaments, many promotions are also held here. For instance, there is a $200 hourly high-hand progressive every Friday and Saturday, where you can win as much as $2,500. All you need to do is land a royal flush, straight flush, or quad. When it comes to poker, you’ll always find something to keep you occupied.
For those who would rather partake in other activities, this casino has you covered too. It has seven appealing restaurants and runs music acts and comedy shows at the Symphony Hall. There are lots more on offer here, making this casino a great location for a fun weekend after you have enjoyed playing poker.
Who Regulates Gambling in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, or MGC, is charged with regulating gambling activities in the state. It is responsible for horse racing alongside licensed casinos. The lottery in MA is regulated by the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.
FAQs about Online Poker in Massachusetts
Is it legal to play online poker for real money in Massachusetts?
No, real-money online poker games are not legal in Massachusetts. Online gambling is not legal in the state, which extends to online poker. If you are interested in playing online poker, you can try sweepstake casinos and other social casino sites. You can also check out offshore sites like those covered in this guide. Since these are based overseas, you won’t get into any trouble playing in them.
Is it legal to play home poker games in Massachusetts?
Yes, it is legal to play home poker games in MA. The legislation is only against commercial gambling for real money, which means home poker games are legal. However, note that this only applies as long as no money is exchanged.
Is poker legal in MA?
Yes, playing poker is legal in Massachusetts and is available in state-owned commercial gambling establishments. Currently, you have only two casino options: Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield. These casinos offer an extensive range of poker games that you can play and wager real cash.