Overview of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Table of Contents


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) was established by Section 3 of Chapter 23K of the Massachusetts General Laws as the oversight agency charged with monitoring gaming establishments.

MGC consists of five full-time commissioners who are responsible for overseeing and implementing the licensing and regulation process for two casinos—MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor (EBH)—and the sole statewide slots parlor, Plainridge Park Casino (PPC). According to MGC’s website, its mission is “to create a fair, transparent, and participatory process for implementing the expanded gaming law.”

MGC’s Research and Responsible Gaming Division develops and implements responsible gaming programs, including the Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) Program and GameSense.1 These programs provide specific structures to promote responsible gaming and ethical, responsible patron behavior.

The MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) receives intelligence on gaming establishments and investigates any suspected violations described under Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011 (the Gaming Law).

The Gaming Enforcement Unit (GEU) at the Massachusetts State Police works with IEB to investigate any activity taking place at MGM Springfield, EBH, and PPC.

MGC’s Division of Racing performs all regulatory duties and responsibilities related to the Massachusetts horse racing industry.

MGC’s office is at 101 Federal Street in Boston. MGC had 94 full-time employees as of March 31, 2020. It is a self-sustaining entity. Its operating costs are funded by the Massachusetts gaming industry through various assessments.

Voluntary Exclusion

Section 133 of Title 205 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) allows problem gamblers2 to voluntarily bar themselves from entering the gaming areas of MGM Springfield, EBH, and PPC. They can do this by completing an application on the GameSense website or in person with any designated agent.3 Once the application is completed, a designated agent forwards the application to the VSE program manager at the Research and Responsible Gaming Division, who maintains the VSE list, and the program manager adds the person to the list. The VSE program manager distributes the VSE list to licensees every Monday and Thursday unless one of those days is a holiday; the licensees may share it with their affiliates in other jurisdictions to help with proper administration of responsible gaming programs. The VSE program manager also sends the VSE list to GameSense supervisors and IEB. Licensees also share the list with their marketing departments to ensure that each person on the list is removed from marketing and player reward lists.

Non-Voluntary Exclusion

The regulation 205 CMR 152 allows MGC to establish a Non-Voluntary Exclusion List (NVEL) of individuals to be barred from the three gaming licensee locations. IEB receives referrals for individuals to be placed on the NVEL from GEU, the Office of the Attorney General, its own gaming agents, and gaming licensees’ compliance departments. These referrals are based on previous or potential injurious threats to the interests of the gaming industry as a whole within the state. Once a person is referred, IEB verifies that the person meets the criteria for exclusion and gathers arrest records, conviction reports, and any other relevant information. The director of IEB reviews this information and decides whether to place the person on the NVEL.

IEB is responsible for ensuring that gaming licensees monitor gambling floors and prevent individuals on the VSE list and NVEL from entering or remove them immediately.

Race Horse Development Fund

Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011 created the Race Horse Development Fund (RHDF) pursuant to Section 60 of Chapter 23K of the General Laws and 205 CMR 149. The RHDF’s purpose is to build and strengthen the Massachusetts horse racing industry and to help pay for benefits for riders, trainers, and others who work in the industry by supplementing purses for standardbred and thoroughbred races. The RHDF is funded by a percentage of the gaming revenue generated by the three Massachusetts gaming licensees. Gross gaming revenue from MGM Springfield and EBH4 is taxed 25% by the state because they are Category 1 licensees; the RHDF receives 2.5% of the proceeds of this tax. Gross gaming revenue from PPC, a Category 2 licensee,5 is taxed 40% by the state, and an additional 9% of its gross gaming revenue is allocated directly to the RHDF. These percentages were established by Section 55 of Chapter 23K of the General Laws. The RHDF’s total revenue during our audit period was $42,582,022. Disbursements from the RHDF were $17,073,216 for fiscal year 2019 and $8,657,155 for fiscal year 2020.

Two breeding associations receive funding from MGC via the RHDF: Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts Inc. and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The percentage of the funding that each association receives is based on recommendations from the MGC Horse Racing Committee.6

RHDF funds are distributed as follows, according to Section 60 of Chapter 23K of the General Laws:

  • 80% of the funds are allocated for purse accounts to fund purses for live races
  • 16% of the funds are earmarked to administer thoroughbred and standardbred breeding associations
  • 4% of the funds are set aside for health and pension benefits for the members of the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Harness Horsemen’s Association of New England Inc.

1.     GameSense is a third-party vendor that promotes positive behaviors and attitudes to reduce the negative effects of problem gambling.

2.     According to 205 CMR 133, the term “problem gambler” means “an individual who believes their gambling behavior is currently, or may in the future without intervention, cause problems in their life or in the lives of their family, friends, and/or co-workers.”

3.     Designated agents are individuals who have completed training on processing applications for the VSE Program, if the training has been approved and administered by the commission or its designee per 205 CMR 133.02. Designated agents include GameSense agents, community-based treatment providers, and counselors.

4.     According to Section 2 of Chapter 23K of the General Laws, a Category 1 license is “a license issued by [MGC] that permits the licensee to operate a gaming establishment with table games and slot machines.”

5.     According to Section 2 of Chapter 23K of the General Laws, a Category 2 license is “a license issued by [MGC] that permits the licensee to operate a gaming establishment with no table games and not more than 1,250 slot machines.”

6.     The Horse Racing Committee is made up of appointees of the Governor, the Treasurer, the Attorney General, the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts Inc. and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The committee meets to make recommendations on how funds should be distributed between thoroughbred and standardbred racing facilities.

Date published: September 30, 2021

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