Massachusetts is an interesting state with respect to unlawful gambling because it gives someone losing money three months to prosecute against the winner, and after three months, anyone other than the person who lost the money can prosecute the winner. Furthermore, the state treats the person who won the money and the owner of the premises in or upon which the unlawful gambling occurred equally in the sense that both are liable to pay the winner in the event the winner sues them for the amount lost.
Technically, that means that an individual in Massachusetts could theoretically sue an online casino for any monies lost, of course, there would be very little that the state could do to successfully effectuate payment of any judgment awarded.
Other laws in the state can be described only as, ‘Puritanical,’ and include laws suggesting that an individual who wins at gambling could be subjected to a fine of double the amount won. Furthermore, individuals who gamble in public (and this could theoretically apply to people playing online) can be subjected to fines of up to $50 and imprisonment of three or fewer months pursuant to Chapter 271, Section 2:
Chapter 271: Section 1. Gaming or betting; forfeiture; limitations.
Section 1. Whoever, on a prosecution commenced within eighteen months after the commission of the crime, is convicted of winning at one time or sitting, by gaming or betting on the sides or hands of those gaming, money or goods to the value of five dollars or more, and of receiving the same or security therefor, shall forfeit double the value of such money or goods.
Chapter 271: Section 2 Gaming or betting in public conveyance or place or while trespassing in private place; arrest without warrant
Section 2. Whoever, in a public conveyance or public place, or in a private place upon which he is trespassing, plays at cards, dice or any other game for money or other property, or bets on the sides or hands of those playing, shall forfeit not more than fifty dollars or be imprisoned for not more than three months; and whoever sets up or permits such a game shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not less than three nor more than twelve months. If discovered in the act, he may be arrested without a warrant by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or any officer qualified to serve criminal process, and held in custody, in jail or otherwise, for not more than twenty-four hours, Sunday and legal holidays excepted, until complaint may be made against him for such offence.
This could be relevant for anyone gambling online on a laptop or mobile device, so while the authorities generally probably aren’t even going to be aware of this bizarre law, the best thing to do is to keep it safe and restrict your playing to home!
In terms of general enforcement, a major sports betting ring was busted late last year.
Former online gambling operators were also found guilty of illegal gambling in a Federal case.
Massachusetts has not, as far as I can tell, prosecuted anyone for gambling online as a mere player. Furthermore, Massachusetts also became one of the first states to legalize and regulate DFS, and online gambling may be soon to follow.
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