Massachusetts Gambling Laws

Massachusetts has tossed around online sports betting proposals at the state legislative level for the past few years without much success. Now, with the House of Representatives and Senate each passing their own sports betting bill in the past year, a conference committee has been formed to get approved legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker as soon as possible. 

The House bill passed last July, H.3993, would allow unlimited mobile and digital sports betting licenses statewide in addition to retail sports betting through casinos and racetracks.

The Senate bill passed in April, S.2844, caps mobile sports betting licenses at nine, with three going to the state’s three current retail casinos.

What Types of Online Gaming Are Proposed in Massachusetts?

Overall, both online gaming bills would give sports bettors in the Bay State a nice selection of top-line sportsbooks and betting options. Mobile and online sports betting would be untethered, although casinos and tracks would be eligible for a limited number of mobile skins which could be operated in agreement with mobile licensees. 

The House bill would allow untethered mobile sports betting statewide, with mobile options for the state’s three casinos as well racetracks and/or simulcast facilities licensed for in-person sports betting. Here’s how the bill would work:

  • Mobile operators would be licensed separately and would not be required to enter into agreements with casinos or track facilities. However, each retail casino licensee would be eligible for up to three individually branded mobile skins in agreement with a mobile licensee. Each retail track licensee would be eligible for one individually branded mobile skin in agreement with a mobile licensee. 
  • Licensing fees would be $5 million, renewable at $5 million after five years.
  • Temporary licenses, good for a year, would cost $1 million. That $1 million would be credited toward a five-year license if granted.

The Senate bill would allow nine mobile sports betting operators to be licensed, with three licenses going to Massachusetts’ three current casinos (Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, and MGM Springfield). Here’s how that bill would work: 

  • Mobile operators would be licensed separately and would not be required to enter into agreements with casinos or tracks. 
  • Each retail casino licensee would be eligible for up to three individually-branded mobile skins, and each retail track licensee would be eligible for one individually-branded mobile skin. Casinos and tracks could partner with mobile licensees to run their online operations. 
  • Licensing fees would also be $5 million, renewable for $5 million after five years.

Proposed Rules Under Both Bills

House Bill (H.3993)

Types of Betting Allowed

Single-game, teasers, parlays, Over/Under, moneyline, pools, exchange, in-game, in-play, straight bets, and prop bets on professional and collegiate sport and athletic events, motor races, esports, and competitive video game events. 

Prohibited Betting

  • Betting on individual performance in any collegiate sport or athletic event including, but not limited, in-game and in-play betting
  • Betting on high school or other youth sporting events
  • Betting on injuries, penalties, player disciplinary action, or replay reviews
  • Betting by athletes, coaches, referees, team owners, or by employees of sports governing body from betting on events overseen by that body
  • Betting from sports betting operators and those closely associated with the operator from placing bets with that operator

Legal Betting Age: 21

Senate Bill (S.2844) 

Types of Betting Allowed

Single-game, end-game, teasers, parlays, Over/Under, moneyline, pools, exchange, in-game, in-play, prop, straight, or other live bets on professional sport or athletic events. 

Prohibited Betting

  • Betting on amateur sports events including Olympic, college, and high school sporting events
  • Betting on esports
  • Betting by athletes, coaches, referees, members teams, or by directors of a sports governing body on games or events overseen by that body
  • Betting by coaches, managers, handlers, trainers, or anyone who holds a position of authority in a sporting event

Legal Betting Age: 21

Online Fantasy Sports

Online fantasy sports, also known as daily fantasy sports, or DFS, became legal temporarily in Massachusetts under a 2016 job creation and workforce development law signed by Gov. Baker. DFS in the Bay State was legalized permanently through the Massachusetts state budget in 2018. 

Big-name sportsbooks FanDuel and DraftKings are among the companies now operating DFS in Massachusetts. The two rivals are also expected to compete for a share of Massachusetts’ sports betting market whenever the state goes live. 

Timeline of Important Dates in Massachusetts Online Gambling History

Nov. 2011 – Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act, allowing one casino to be built in each of three geographically distinct areas of the state. The legislation also allowed for a single slots facility to be located anywhere in the state

Feb. 2014 – Massachusetts awarded the single slots facility license to Penn National Gaming through a competitive bidding process

Aug. 1, 2016 – Gov. Charlie Baker legalized DFS in Massachusetts in an economic development bill. The authorization, however, was temporary, requiring state lawmakers to reauthorize DFS in 2018. 

July 2018 – Massachusetts makes DFS permanently legal through a rider provision in the state budget.

July 2020 – The Massachusetts House approves sports betting as part of an economic development bill. The provisions are eventually stripped from the bill by the Senate. 

July 22, 2021 – The Massachusetts House votes 156-3 to legalize sports betting, sending a proposal to legalize sportsbooks in-state to the Senate for a second time. 

April 28, 2022 – The Senate passes its own sports betting bill with significant differences from the House bill.

Massachusetts Online Gambling Facts

Minimum Age To Gamble Online21
Who Regulates Online Gambling Currently
In Massachusetts?
Office of the Attorney General (both supervisory and licensing authority)
What’s Legal?Fantasy Sports (DFS)

Massachusetts Online Gambling Laws FAQs

Is Online Gambling Safe?

Yes, as long as online bettors use legal, regulated gambling websites or mobile gambling apps. Massachusetts has not legalized sports betting or online casinos, so any personal and financial information shared via an online sportsbook or casino in the Bay State today is considered at risk. 

How Can I Ensure The Safety Of My Personal Information When Using Online Casinos And Sports Betting Sites In Massachusetts?

Always bet in a state or jurisdiction where online gambling is legal. One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating an online account with a reputable brand. Only customers in legal states will be able to place bets through reputable websites in that state. Another good rule of thumb is to check the state gambing commission site, or similar regulatory site, for vendor certification information. 

Who Operates Online Gambling Sites In Massachusetts? 

The only legal online gambing in Massachusetts today is daily fantasy sports (DFS). Reputable brands FanDuel and Boston-based DraftKings are the top DFS operators in the state, although there are some illegal DFS operators in Massachusetts, too. It’s a good idea to check with state regulators on a gambling site’s legality before placing that first bet. 

What Happens If I Have A Dispute With An Online Gambling Site In Massachusetts? 

The Massachusetts Office of Attorney General is responsible for oversight and licensing of fantasy sports in the state. That means that enforcement of DFS sites, for now at least, falls under that office’s enforcement power. Massachusetts state lawmakers have spent the last few years debating tax legislation that could change who regulates DFS in the state, but any change remains uncertain. 

What Is The Difference Between Legal And Illegal Online Gambling Sites? 

Security is the biggest difference between legal and illegal online gambling sites. Legal sites are vetted by state regulators to ensure that they have betting protections in place for their customers. Illegal sites operate outside of the law, putting a customer’s personal and financial information at risk. It pays to bet on secure websites with well-regulated operators, no matter the size of the wager. 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Massachusetts Casinos. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.