Massachusetts Poker & Gambling Laws

Massachusetts Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is a poker player-friendly state. The state government has no laws about online gambling that could lead to a poker player being arrested or charged with any crime. In fact, Massachusetts is one of a dozen or so US states looking to tax and regulate poker and casino gambling online by opening state-licensed gaming sites of their own.

One of the main reasons the state, known as The Spirit of America, has lax laws about gambling in general and poker in particular is that the state law regarding gambling is really old. Only a half-dozen or so court cases in Massachusetts have ever taken place regarding the subject of gambling. No changes to state law have been made for more than 100 years. Since the Internet wasn’t around when Massachusetts law was written, the subject of Internet poker play has gone totally unaddressed.

Private Poker Game Law in Massachusetts

The state hasn’t made any significant legislative progress on the subject of gambling since the early 20th century. The most relevant piece of state law regarding home games is this, from State Bill 99:

“Whoever in a public conveyance or public place, or a private place on which he is trespassing, plays card, dice or any other game for money or other property, shall forfeit not more than $50 or be in prison for not more than three months. Whoever permits such a game should be fined not less than $50 and maybe imprisoned not less than three nor more than 12 months.”

Basically your private poker game is legal as long as no one trespass on your property and as long as the game is out of the public eye. The hosts of illegal games are at greater risk in The Bay State, facing harsher penalties for providing these illegal (read: public) poker games. As long as your home poker game takes place in your home, behind closed doors, you’re safe to wager as much as you want.

Massachusetts Online Casino Law

The state of Massachusetts has not made a single arrest for any crime related to online gambling. Online poker is just as big in Massachusetts as in other American states; it’s just that the state has no law against online gambling that would lead to a conviction or fine. As for federal law, which supersedes state law in most cases, the Department of Justice indicated in late 2011 that they are looking to prosecute illegal Internet game providers, not customers. Because of a lack of language in the state penal code, and thanks to the fact that the federal government is not interested in arresting online poker players, people who live in Massachusetts can play at online poker rooms and not worry that they’re committing a crime.

In fact, Massachusetts state legislators are working to put together laws that would allow the state to open their own licensed (and taxed) online casinos and poker rooms. It is thought that Massachusetts would join with neighbors Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and a few other states to open online casinos that would increase those states’ tax revenue. Not only do citizens of Massachusetts have easy legal access to online poker, the state may soon provide even more options for legal poker play.

Learn About Other State Laws

Massachusetts Online Poker in the Future

The state of Massachusetts is set to be part of the first move by US states to build an online poker room network, controlled by those state’s governments. Similar to Powerball lottery, which takes place across state lines, these Internet poker and casino gambling venues would join customer bases from a large group of states. Some state legislators have already discussed their desire to be part of any new online gambling venture, especially as the dwindling US economy impacts the state further.

If you live in Massachusetts, you are not committing any crime in the eyes of the law for playing poker online. Private games are also fully legal and gently regulated. A new opinion on the part of the US Department of Justice, indicating that the feds are more interested in prosecuting illegal online gambling hosts, means that Massachusetts citizens don’t face charges from either the state or the federal level.