Massachusetts Casinos and Gambling

Massachusetts has played an important role in the history of the United States, but they’ve never been known as a powerhouse in the annals of gaming history. That’s slowly changing, however, and the purpose of this article is to explore the ever-shifting landscape of gambling in “The Codfish State.”

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Commercial Casinos in Massachusetts

Gambling was legalized in the state in 1971, although it wasn’t until 2011 that the casino industry got a shot in the arm. That’s when Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation to stimulate the economy by issuing several licenses for legal casino gambling.

While support was initially high, the entire initiative got bogged down in controversies and lawsuits. Public support diminished once the economy started to improve, and the involvement of several dubious characters brought a stain to the whole affair.

The projects have continued, however, and the following commercial casinos are now available to those within the state:

  • Atlantic Casino Cruises – Ocean Club
  • Horizon’s Edge Casino Cruises – Horizon’s Edge
  • MGM Springfield (scheduled to open on June 1st, 2018)
  • Plainridge Park Casino (scheduled to open on June 24th, 2015)
  • Wynn Casino – Everett (scheduled to open on January 1st, 2017)

Massachusetts Indian Casinos

While there are no state laws prohibiting Native American casinos, there’s yet to be a tribe willing to step up and take advantage of the opportunity. While several tribes still exist in the region, the only one recognized by the federal government is the Wampanoag Tribe.

Parimutuel Wagering in Massachusetts

Harness and thoroughbred racing are alive and well in Massachusetts, and these events usually take place during the summer and fall. Racing facilities also offer year-round wagering on races in other parts of the nation, and these can be enjoyed in a climate-controlled environment on a wide array of TV monitors.

Greyhound racing used to exist in the state, but this came to an end thanks to the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act. The legislation imposed heavy fines on any facility providing dog racing, and the industry was wiped out by 2010.

  • Plainridge Racecourse – Opened in 1999, this course offers harness racing from April through November, as well as live simulcast for national races. They also received a license to add a slot machine parlor in 2014.
  • Suffolk Downs – This racetrack opened in 1935. While it’s been forced to close on two occasions, it remains the most historic racing venue in the state. Thoroughbred takes place on two tracks, while live simulcasting is available throughout the year.
  • Three County Fair – Held annually in Northampton, this event offers live thoroughbred racing during the month of September.

While simulcast racing can be enjoyed at the state’s two racetracks, you won’t be able to find it anywhere else. That means Massachusetts has no off-track betting facilities, which is a slight disappointment.

Lottery in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts lottery was created in 1971, and the first drawing in 1972 awarded $50,000 to seven players. In 1974, they became the first state to sell instant tickets. In 1996, they joined with five other states to create a multi-state game that would later become the popular Mega Millions drawing. 2014 saw the introduction of “World Class Millions,” a $30 scratch-off ticket with a top prize of $15 million.

Revenue from the lottery is distributed to 351 towns and cities across the state. While many states earmark the cash for public education, Massachusetts allows each region to determine how best to spend the money. In 2014, $920.2 million was distributed across the Commonwealth.

The only negative to the game is the high tax imposed by the state. The federal level normally withholds five percent on prizes over $5,000, but Massachusetts does this on any winnings over $600. If you’re lucky enough to win $5,000 or more, the withholding tax is at least 30%.

Instant tickets are available at thousands of licensed retailers throughout the state. The cost of a ticket starts at $1 and goes as high as $30. By joining the online Red Carpet VIP Club, players can even win money on an otherwise losing instant ticket thanks to a weekly drawing.

The following draw games are currently available:

  • Mega Millions – Matching five numbers pays $1 million, while also getting the Mega Ball awards the progressive jackpot.
  • Powerball – Five numbers award a $1 million prize, while five numbers and a Powerball unlock the progressive jackpot.
  • Lucky for Life – Match five numbers and the lucky ball to win $7,000 a week for life.
  • Megabucks Doubler – Successfully match six numbers to win a jackpot starting at $500,000.
  • Mass Cash – Match five numbers and win a top jackpot of $100,000.
  • Numbers Game – This game pays when the player matches even a single digit, although the winnings are increased if more numbers or the exact order is drawn.
  • Keno – Three versions of this game are offered, and drawings are held every four minutes.
  • Jackpot Poker – The player is paid based on the strength of their poker hand. A royal straight flush pays the top prize of $25,000.

Slot Machine Ownership in Massachusetts

According to the state laws of Massachusetts, a private citizen can own a slot machine as long as it’s at least 30 years old. This puts them in the category of “antique gaming machines,” and the logic is that older games of this type aren’t a threat to more modern options (or the businesses that possess the latter). While residents are free to play these machines for fun, they are prohibited by law from using them to turn a profit.


From bingo and casinos to horseracing, Massachusetts has a number of gambling options available to tourists and locals. While the loss of greyhound racing is a disappointment, that sport, in general, seems to be going the way of cockfighting. Fortunately, the continued existence of harness and thoroughbred racing helps to soften the blow.

While the state has never been known as a haven for gamblers, the influx of casinos should help change that in the coming years. When you also add the convenience of online gaming into the mix, Massachusetts is shaping up to become a paradise for bettors.