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Massachusetts seems completely disinterested in online gambling. It's been over a century since they've added any gambling laws to the book, so they definitely haven't confronted online poker. Until that changes, feel free to play online poker in Massachusetts!
It is legal to play online poker in Massachusetts. Although it is not currently regulated, there are not any laws specifically making online poker illegal.
Massachusetts has the distinction of being home to some of the earliest American settlers, and the Puritans among them forbade anything to do with gambling, though opinions began to lighten in the 1600s. Officially, Massachusetts took such a stance against gambling that it helped fight against other states establishing lotteries in the 1800s, and in 1950, it was one of four states to vote against casino gambling. However, in 1934, the State Racing Commission was created and a thoroughbred track called Suffolk Downs was built. More racing became popular with harness and greyhound racing, and more tracks were built. And in a major turnaround, the Massachusetts State Lottery was established in 1971 as a revenue stream for the state. Could legal Massachusetts online poker be the next source of revenue for the state? Read on to find out.
Q. If Rep. Frank fought for poker in Congress, why not in his own state?
A. The U.S. Representative is paid to represent his state on the federal level, and other legislators are elected to do what's best for the state of Massachusetts. Rep. Frank was also unsuccessful, as of September 2012, of pushing through any federal online poker site legislation, so it is unclear if he will continue to fight for online gambling after his term ends federally or in Massachusetts.
Q. Why did Massachusetts finally decide to allow casinos?
A. There was no official statement, but it is likely that Massachusetts saw other states embrace their casinos (especially neighbors like Connecticut) and benefit from high taxes that turned into significant revenue for struggling states. As more of the New England states offer casino options, Massachusetts could have wanted a piece of that action so as not to miss out on that revenue and tourist traffic.
Q. Is dog racing still allowed in Massachusetts?
A. No. Dog racing was made illegal in 2009.
Q. Why is the Indian casino taking longer to legalize than land-based casinos?
A. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe not only has to obtain approval from the state of Massachusetts and agree on every aspect of a compact, but the tribe then has to apply for approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the federal level. That process often takes up to a year. All parties must be careful as to the terms of the compact because so many rights are at stake.
Q. What if poker is classified as a game of chance?
A. In Massachusetts, that might make a difference as far as sentencing for gambling crimes, but it likely won't change the probability that Massachusetts online poker will be legalized. Should more precedent be set by court cases showing that poker is a game of skill, it might help arguments of online poker supporters but probably would not help the passage of a state law.
Even further, Massachusetts voted in 2012 to allow the building of three resort casinos. In dire need of more revenue and seeing the ability to lead the New England states in a trend, Massachusetts will take 25 percent of all gambling monies from the three establishments. Further, the state is in talks with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to open the first tribal casino in Massachusetts. All of this indicates a change in feeling toward gambling and the potential to consider online gambling, or online poker sites for Massachusetts, in the future.
With regard to poker, the parts of Massachusetts law that prohibit gambling are several, but the bottom line is that cards or dice games played for money are punishable by imprisonment. However, charitable gambling is permitted. Home poker games in which no rake is taken by the proprietor is a questionable area and something that the state has yet to try to strictly enforce. As for the argument that poker is a game of skill and not a gamble, the most recent case in Massachusetts was in 1991 and ruled poker as a game of chance.
Even so, State Representative Dan Winslow decided to push for online poker in Massachusetts in 2011. He tried to attach it to the casino legislation, which did not work, and he tried to attach it to a budget bill in 2012 with the same result. Should New Jersey or other neighboring states start to legalize online poker, though, Massachusetts might reconsider. It should also be noted that United States Representative Barney Frank hails from Massachusetts and has been one of the staunchest supporters of pro-online gambling legislation in Congress. Since he will not seek another term, he will likely retire but could focus some efforts on federal or even state online gambling projects. To send a message to state legislators about this issue, click here: Find My Legislator.
Currently, the Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Racecourse horse racing facilities are the only ones in operation, though the state will soon become home to three land-based casinos. Those will have the potential to draw crowds and attract poker tournament series as they become more established. The Indian casino may also be in operation in 2013 or 2014.