In 2011, legislators signed the Expanded Gaming Act into Massachusetts gambling laws allowing up to four commercial casinos to operate in designated state areas. The plan was a casino resort in each area and one slot parlor in the entire state. Indeed, the journey to this point takes some explanation. Here is a lengthy and comprehensive report on Gambling in Massachusetts – The Bay State.
Gambling in Massachusetts – The Bay State.
The Massachusetts Lottery
As an original colony and one of the original thirteen states, Massachusetts has a long history with gaming, going back to the days before it was a state. Harvard University, the Massachusetts State House, and the memorial to Plymouth Rock – revenue from lotteries and raffles all these (and more) built these state landmarks at least partially. However, it has continued to exist with a love/hate relationship between politics, the public, and lotteries. For example:
- The lottery was authorized in 1745 to pay King George’s War expenses.
- In 1761, the colony of Massachusetts banned lotteries until the American Revolution.
- The lotteries again became frequent in 1778
- The legislature enacted a new ban in 1833
- 1971 the Massachusetts legislature created the modern lottery to aid the financial crisis and inflation.
- In 1974, the lottery introduced the industry’s first instant scratch ticket with a game called “The Instant Game,” which transformed the entire lottery industry.
Today’s Massachusetts Lottery
The lottery celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. Since the first ticket on March 22, 1972, the lottery has generated over $140 billion in revenues, awarded over $100 billion in prizes, returned over $30 billion in net profit to the Commonwealth for unrestricted local aid provided to cities and towns, and paid over $8 billion in commissions and bonuses to its statewide network of retailers.
The Massachusetts State Lottery does not offer its games online at this point. Gambling In Massachusetts on any website that offers M.A. lottery tickets online is neither legal nor authorized… so buyers beware.
One alternative you have to play online is to purchase “season tickets.” These season tickets act as a subscription service in which you can pay to enter drawings automatically for 3, 6, or 12 months upfront. Once you pay and fill out the season tickets form, the lottery will automatically enter you into each drawing.
Season tickets are available for Mega Millions, Megabucks Doubler, Powerball, and Lucky for Life. You must visit an authorized lottery agent in person to purchase season tickets; these are not sold online. Visit this page for a list of authorized retailers.
Gambling In Massachusetts – Race Track Timeline
The history of horse racing in the state of Massachusetts is a long one and dates back to the 1930s.
- 1934(middle of The Depression) – Massachusetts legalized pari-mutuel betting on both horses and dogs
- 1935 – East Boston’s Suffolk Downs opened for thoroughbred racing, and Taunton Dog Track and Wonderland Greyhound Park opened in Revere.
- Raynham Greyhound Park added in 1941
- Bay State Raceway in Foxborough opened for harness racing in 1947. and closed in 1997 and
- The Plainridge Park harness track in Plainville opened in 1999.
- In 2009, The Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act banned dog racing
- Live racing ended at Suffolk Downs in 2019.
Above, clockwise starting top left: Opening Day 1935; Birds-eye view before added Parimutual space; Postcard from Suffolk Downs Opening Day; Last Horse to cross the finish line.
Off-Track Betting – Gambling in Massachusetts
Horse racing fans in Massachusetts have several options to watch and wager on live horse racing action. The horse racing industry in the Bay State has seen a turbulent history because of expanded gaming in Massachusetts. However, thoroughbred and Harness racing remains, and simulcasting is available year-round at three convenient locations.
When live racing is not in season, both Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park operate as fully functioning Off Track Betting facilities and are joined on the roster by Raynham Park, the former dog track converted to a full OTB. As a result, horseplayers have plenty of ways to enjoy the day at these three locations.
All three offer different dining and beverage options, and fans can spend the day in a sports bar atmosphere or opt for more formal dining. There is something for everyone, including promotions, events, and contests throughout the year.
- Suffolk Downs, East Boston, MA; Phone; (617) 568-3220
- Plainridge Park Casino, Plainville, MA; Phone; (508) 576-4500
- Raynham Park Simulcast Center, Raynham; Phone: (508) 824-4071
The Expanded Gambling Act
Gambling in Massachusetts Gets Serious
On November 22, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act into law. Expanded gaming will create thousands of jobs for Massachusetts residents in construction, hospitality, and tourism while generating $300- $500 million in new revenue for the Commonwealth. Indeed, expanding Gambling in Massachusetts would stop residents from wqagering in Rhode Island, especially in Connecticut.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Approves Three
MGM Springfield opened in August 2018, becoming the first casino in Massachusetts to offer live table games, followed by the opening of Encore in Everett. In June 2019. Both casinos/resorts offer thousands of slot machines and a full suite of table games, such as blackjack, roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, baccarat, and craps, to name a few in the selection.
There were many interested suitors for the four casino licenses.
Region B, Western Mass – MGM Springfield gets approval.
Others considered were:
- Penn National Gaming, Inc. (Springfield),
- Hard Rock, MA (West Springfield), and
- Mohegan Sun (Palmer).
Region A, Eastern Mass – Wynn, LLC’s Everett Proposal Approved.
Others considered were:
- Caesars @ Suffolk Downs Racecourse (East Boston),
- Foxwoods @ Crossroads Massachusetts, LLC, (Milford), and later,
- Mohegan Sun @ Suffolk Downs (Revere)
Related Post – Massachusetts Casinos Endure Tough Challenges
Slots Only – Plainridge Racecourse (Plainville) gets approval.
Others considered were:
- Raynham Park (Raynham),
- Mass Gaming & Entertainment, LLC (Worcester)
- PPE Casino Resorts / Maryland Alive! (Danvers),
- Cordish Gaming Slots (Foxboro)
Region C -Southeastern Mass – Not given to any of the following applicants:
- Mashpee Indian Tribe (Taunton),
- Rush Gaming Casino (Brockton), and
- Foxwoods (New Bedford)
Where’s The Revenue?
But, by late August 2018, MGM Springfield had brought in less than two-thirds of the $418 million in gross gaming revenue MGM executives told the state the casino would bring in during its first year. MGM also admitted another mistake in 2019 – they underestimated the loyalty of Connecticut’s Casino patrons.
The last approved casino also saw lower-than-expected revenue. Wynn Resorts’ $2.6 billion Everett casino saw its lowest gaming revenues in October 2019, only earning $45.8 million in gross gaming revenue. The blame pointed to high table minimums, low slot revenue, and trying to be Las Vegas in Boston. Brian Gullbrants, Encore’s then-president, said, “The last thing we want to do is be a Vegas casino in Boston. We want to be Greater Boston’s hometown casino.”
Things have changed immensely after the pandemic. Revenues are now matching expected goals. Read the post below for the details.
Related Post – AMAZING COMEBACK BY MASSACHUSETTS CASINOS
Expansion of Gambling in Massachusetts – The Bay State
Timeline, Facts & Casino Pictorial
The first casino to open was Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MA, which presents casino gambling and live harness racing. Slot and electronic table games only.
Next, MGM Springfield – Springfield, MA, operated by MGM Resorts International, opened in 2018. This “industrial chic” designed casino covers three blocks downtown in the center of Springfield.
Encore Boston Harbor, the third Massachusetts casino just north of Boston, overlooks the surrounding landscape and the adjacent Mystic River with a modernistic profile and a sweeping roofline. It’s a glamorous casino with luxury hotel rooms, shopping, and five-star dining accessible on the property. The casino’s six-acre Harborwalk is a waterfront park that rings the property and connects to existing paths around Boston Harbor.
Casinos By The Numbers
Massachusetts Gambling – The Casinos That Got Away
Here are some artist renditions of the casinos that never received approval in the Bay State.
Related Post – Wampanoags First Thanksgiving and Casino Plans
1. First Light
Massachusetts has two related tribes yearning for a casino – the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).
The Wampanoags First Light was a once stunning project to be the third resort casino. The Mashpee tribe gained federal recognition in 2007 and 2015 and received approval for land to be taken into trust for a casino.
When finished, the resort would include a 150,000 sq-ft casino with 3,000 slots, 150 table games, 40 poker tables, two 12-story hotel towers with 300 rooms each, an indoor/outdoor water park, a family water park hotel, and many restaurants.
Here is a timeline of the events that have occurred:
- 2016 – The Wampanoag’s Project “First Light,” a large casino complex, begins construction.
- Later that year, however, a court overturned the land-into-trust approval, and work on the project was suspended.
- As a result, the casino remained in legal limbo as of 2019.
- Finally, in March 2020, the U.S. Interior Dept removed the tribe’s reservation status, effectively ending this casino project.
- June 5, 2020 – a U.S. district judge stopped the Department Of the Interior (DOI) from moving the Mashpee Wampanoag land out of the federal trust
- February 2021 – The U.S. Department of Interior withdrew its appeal of the June 2020 ruling, thus leaving the Mashpee casino land in federal trust – a victory for the tribe and a green light to proceed.
The current status of the First Light Casino project for Taunton, MA, is no longer on hold. However, another lawsuit to stop the casino was filed with a federal appeals court in February of 2022 by the anti-casino group of Taunton.
2. Aquinnah Cliffs Casino
In July 2015, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head tribal officials announced a plan to expand Gambling in Massachusetts. The idea was to convert an unfinished community center on Martha’s Vineyard into a gambling venue. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe intends to build a Class II Bingo hall and casino. Vacationers and residents will visit this facility.
Due to a legal technicality, the tribe must seek building permits and go through Martha’s Vineyard Commission to build on its reservation. The Aquinnah tribe, after a protracted legal battle with the state, the town of Aquinnah, and a community association, had its rights to a Class II casino affirmed.
Related Post – MARTHA’S VINEYARD AQUINNAH TRIBE CASINO 2021 UPDATE
The tribe’s immediate fate of the vacant land for the 10,000-square-foot electronic bingo parlor was halted by a court order two years ago over the tribe’s refusal to seek local building permits. Its appeals have been exhausted, and the court order remains in place, leaving the tribe with a stark choice, according to lawyers representing the town: Either comply with local building permit requirements or scrap plans to construct the gaming facility.
Sports Betting Approved
On August 1, 2022, a sports betting deal was passed, bringing legal sports betting to Massachusetts.
Sports Betting Facts
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission still needs to finalize the regulations that will govern sports betting, but state law lays out some ground rules that are most relevant to bettors:
- Retail Sites:
- The legislation approved by Massachusetts lawmakers will allow betting in the Bay State through licensed casinos and horse racetracks.
- Casinos will partner with at least one sportsbook – including their retail sportsbook – through the company that operates their casino, where possible.
- The MGC will grant up to seven licenses to sportsbooks not tethered to casinos or racetracks.
- Casinos, racetracks, or simulcast facilities will not be allowed to partner with sportsbooks holding one of those seven stand-alone licenses.
- Retail sportsbooks pay a 15% tax on revenue
- Types of Wagers
- Wagers are allowed on all the major American league sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL), such as European basketball leagues, cricket, and rugby.
- College sports wagering is allowed.
- No wagering on Massachusetts colleges unless they are in tournament play.
- Online and in-person sports betting is legal
- Bettors must be 21+ years of age and physically in the state (verifiable by your mobile device’s geolocation tech or a downloadable desktop plugin) to place wagers from phones once sports betting goes live in Massachusetts.
- Online sportsbooks pay 20%
Retail and Online Options
Massachusetts sports betting will bring more than 20 legal sportsbooks to the Bay State – including 15 mobile sports betting apps. For now, there are no sportsbooks in Massachusetts. The most likely online sportsbooks will be:
- DraftKings Sportsbook Massachusetts: With its headquarters in Massachusetts, DraftKings is guaranteed a spot.
- BetMGM Massachusetts: Given the presence of MGM Springfield, BetMGM Sportsbook will likely be one of the first to launch in Massachusetts.
- FanDuel Sportsbook Massachusetts: Alongside DraftKings, FanDuel is usually one of the first to launch in states that legalize online sports betting.
- Barstool Sportsbook: Given that Penn National Gaming, which owns Barstool Sportsbook, operates Plainridge Park Casino, this is yet another almost certain Massachusetts online sports betting app.
- WynnBet: The presence of Encore around Boston should bring out all betters to Wynn’s sports betting line.
The three commercial casinos will have their retail outlets. In addition, both Encore and MGM have already designed and built their sportsbook space.
Significant changes are coming to Massachusetts, influencing New England and New York State. The next few years will see the proliferation of online gaming and, hopefully, essential programs for problem gambling.
Robin “Binbin” Aubin