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Massachusetts Gambling Laws

It may (or may not) come as a surprise, but under federal law, gambling is generally not illegal (with some major caveats, of course). As a result, states have taken it upon themselves to regulate the gaming industry. This has resulted in each of the fifty states having laws that make various forms of gambling either explicitly legal or illegal. The most common forms of gambling in the United States include: horse racing, tribal casinos, commercial gambling, charitable gambling, and the state lottery.

In Massachusetts, “gambling” is defined as winning $5 or more by gaming or betting on sides or hands of those gaming -- except under permitted circumstances. When it comes to these permitted forms of gambling, Massachusetts allows among others: charitable gambling (in which the proceeds go to a charitable organization), licensed horse-racing, licensed dog-racing, and the state lottery.

Did you know that America's biggest casino isn't on the Las Vegas Strip or Atlantic City Boardwalk? Opened in 1986 in western Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casino is a complex of six casinos with 17 different types of table games, including 100 for poker. Massachusetts, perhaps envying Connecticut’s highly popular and lucrative casinos, recently legalized the opening of three casinos (commercial and/or tribal depending on who wins the bids for the licenses).

Code Section

271§1 et seq.; 128A§1 et seq.


Winning $5 or more by gaming or betting on sides or hands of those playing, in a public place or while trespassing in a private place.

Horse Racing/Off-Track Betting

Licensed horse racing and on-track pari-mutuel or certificate wagering legal.

Dog Racing/Off-Track Betting

Licensed dog racing and on-track parimutuel or certificate wagering legal.


Commercial and Tribal.

Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned

Book making and pool making; betting in pool halls or bowling alleys; gaming within one mile of a cattle show, military muster or public gathering; using a telephone to place or accept a bet illegal. Charitable organizations allowed to have raffles or bazaars.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

For more information on gambling, in general, read FindLaw’s Details on State Gambling Laws article. You can do additional research by clicking on the links below which lead to websites providing information on Massachusetts laws, as well as gaming laws. Finally, if you have a more specific question or would like more in-depth information, consider consulting with a Massachusetts gaming lawyer.

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Related Resources for Gambling Laws:

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