Massachusetts residents enjoy a variety of legal gambling within their state, including casinos. These gaming facilities are spread throughout the state, so most Massachusettsans live reasonably close to at least one. These businesses offer an array of gambling options, like poker rooms, slots, and table games. A lot of people visit them for the amenities too.
Those typically include dining, hotel stays, live music, and spa services. Some of the casinos in Massachusetts even have boutique retail spaces on the premises. The casino operators reward loyalty, with programs that feature free casino play, dining, or hotel stays.
We’ll detail where each MA casino is and what it offers. we’ll also talk about the current state of the Massachusetts casino industry and what the future might hold.
There are three casinos in Massachusetts. Commercial entities, not tribal groups, operate all three of them. There has been interest in building a fourth commercial casino in Brockton. However, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe also has plans to build a casino on land it has acquired near Taunton. That currently precludes any commercial casino in the same area. The tribe has struggled to get the US Dept. of the Interior to protect the land, which is necessary to start construction on its casino. The matter is currently in the federal court system.
Until that’s resolved, the three existing commercial casinos will be the sum total for the state. All three have a short history of operation in the state.
Located on the Mystic River just north of the state capital, one of the greatest assets of this $2.5 billion property is a six-acre Harborwalk. The park surrounds the 33 acre-property and connects to other cycling/walking paths in the area. It has the distinction of being the largest single-phase construction project in MA history. Of course, what’s inside is just as important.
On top of a hotel, multiple dining options, retail shops, and a spa, there’s the gambling. The poker room boasts 88 tables. The main floor features 144 gaming tables and over 1,800 slot games. The Wynn property offers its Red Card rewards program to frequent guests as well.
The property opened in June 2019, but not without some drama. The MA Gaming Commission (MGC) had granted Wynn Resorts a commercial casino license for the region late in 2014. However, shortly thereafter Wynn CEO Steve Wynn faced allegations of sexual misconduct. One of the other companies who bid for the license, Suffolk Downs, also sued Wynn for what it called “conspiring to fix the application process.” Ultimately, Steve Wynn stepped down as CEO and the company changed the property’s name from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor. The MGC allowed Wynn Resorts to keep the license on those conditions but also fined the corporation $35 million for not disclosing Steve Wynn’s troubles during the bidding process.
If you want a sprawling property filled with entertainment options, it’s hard to beat MGM Springfield. Over three blocks in downtown Springfield, including an outdoor amphitheater, there is something for everyone. An arcade, bowling alley, movie theater, retail shops, spa, and Topgolf suite all beckon visitors.
Of course, there’s a hotel, and the many dining options include a variety of food trucks that drive in on Fridays. Gambling is no minor attraction, either. A poker room, 75 gaming tables, and over 3,000 slot machines encompass the 125,000 square feet of gaming space. Guests can also enjoy the M Life rewards program while on-site.
MGM Springfield opened on Aug. 24, 2018. At the time, it was the first and only fully-fledged casino in the state. Plainridge Park opened earlier, but that casino has no physical table games or poker room. MGM Springfield’s construction cost $960 million and took nearly three years to complete. The MGC awarded the license to MGM in May 2013. In July of that year, a city-wide referendum approved the plans.
Should your preferred entertainment include live horse races and slots, then Plainridge Park has your name written all over it. You can choose between several dining options, including a sports pub named for Massachusetts native and former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. There is also space for live entertainment and an indoor simulcast theater for harness races.
On the gaming floor, you’ll find over 1,200 slots, video blackjack, video poker, and other kinds of virtual table games. There is no poker room or physical table games here. The property also does not have a hotel. As Penn National Gaming operates this facility, guests can participate in the MyChoice rewards program while on site.
The MGC gave PNG the slot parlor license in February 2014. A month later, Penn broke ground on the $225 million facility right next to the racecourse. On June 24, 2015, the slot parlor opened for business. At that time, it was the first and only place in the state where Massachusettsans could legally play slot games. The push to expand gambling started in 2011 when the state legislature did so by statute. There was an attempt to repeal the law via ballot referendum in 2014, but the measure failed.
In 2015, the US Dept. of the Interior took 321 acres of land near Taunton into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Shortly thereafter, the tribe announced its intention to erect a casino and resort on part of the tract. The tribe also worked out a gaming compact with the MGC and the DOI. Everything seemed on track for the casino, with a planned name of First Light, but then a group of Taunton residents filed suit in March of 2016.
The plaintiffs argued that because the Mashpee Wampanoag wasn’t a federally recognized tribe until 2007, the DOI couldn’t take the land into trust for them. Not long after that, the DOI disestablished the trust. Meanwhile, Rush Street Gaming expressed interest in building a commercial casino near Brockton if the tribal casino plans fell through.
The tribe then sued the DOI and had a positive ruling in that lawsuit in June 2020. A federal judge ordered the DOI to review its decision to disestablish the trust. The suit against the tribe by the Taunton residents was most recently a defeat for the tribe but is on appeal. Some MA Congresspeople are working on legislation that would solve the issue of federal recognition for the Mashpee Wampanoag. Eventually, there will either be a commercial casino near Brockton or a tribal casino near Taunton. Congress and federal courts will decide the issue.
Another tribal gaming project, known as the Aquinnah Cliffs, is on hold due to resistance from the local community. This one is spearheaded by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. The tribe has a compact with the MGC to build and operate a Class II gaming facility near Martha’s Vineyard. That class of license only allows for games in which winnings come out a pool of players’ considerations, not gambling against the house’s interest directly. Examples of those games include bingo and player-banked card games.
A late February 2021 ruling from the US First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the tribe’s right to build the property on its sovereign land but says it must obtain permits and comply with zoning restrictions pertinent to the local community. Currently, the construction is on hold pending receipt of permits. It’s unclear whether either side of the lawsuit intends to appeal to the US Supreme Court.
With three of the most prolific gambling companies operating in MA, gamblers in the state can enjoy a wide variety of casino games. You can try to win some money at the casino’s expense playing a variety of card games, die games, or video slots that offer a robust menu of different aesthetics and themes. The odds and potential prizes can vary greatly in these games, including chances at progressive jackpots that build in value over time. No matter what your level of experience with gambling is or what your budget is, there’s something for everyone.
In MA, the law says gambling machines must have a return-to-player rate of at least 80%, but slot machines in the Bay State tend to be much more generous than that. At all three of the MA casinos, you can find at least 1,200 slot machines, with MGM Springfield boasting over 3,000. These video slot machines have a dazzling array of different themes, bet levels, and prize levels. Some of these titles are exclusive to specific operators, like MGM Grand Millions.
Among these games are titles with progressive jackpots, like Lightning Link. You can find that game at MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park. There are also video versions of popular card games, like Encore Boston Harbor’s 3/5/10 Play Poker. The casinos frequently offer promotions attached to slots play, which can include prizes like free play but merchandise like boats and cars.
Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield feature physical gaming tables with live dealers. You can buy your way into a variety of games at those tables, including:
January 2021 produced a moderate gain for Massachusetts casinos. Nonetheless, it’s a positive sign as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head can continue plans to build a gambling hall in Martha’s Vineyard, provided it works with the town to do so.
Once you’ve sampled everything the Bay State has to offer, you might want to expand your horizons. Neighboring states also offer commercial and tribal casino gaming. In two of the states that border MA, legal sportsbooks are among the amenities you’ll find at these properties. Within a few hours’ drive, you can visit a lot of different venues.
Connecticut is home to two tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. Those facilities have been running since the 1990s. At one time, Foxwoods was the second-largest casino in the world. Both properties not only offer slots and table games but have a racebook as well. Both properties also boast a host of amenities, like dining and hotels. You can find live entertainment and retail shopping at either site year-round. Mohegan Sun property is also home to the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
If you count both the Class II and Class III facilities, there are 25 casinos in New York. Several of them are “racinos,” offering slots and table games in addition to harness racing on-site. The list of Class III facilities includes both commercial and tribal operators. At most of the Class III properties, you can find a retail sportsbook. Of the Class III offerings, the facilities closest to the MA border include Rivers Casino in Schenectady and Turning Stone Resort in Verona. Both of those casinos offer multiple dining choices and on-site accommodations so you can turn your visit to upstate NY into a several-day affair.
There are no tribal casinos in this state but the state does contain two commercial gambling properties. The Tiverton Casino Hotel in the town by the same name and the Twin River Casino in Lincoln comprise the totality of casino gaming in RI. Bally’s manages both properties. Twin River is just a short drive from the Boston area. Both facilities offer slots and table games in addition to hotel accommodations and multiple dining choices. The Twin River has become known for the Blackstone Cigar Bar while the Tiverton has a simulcast racebook.