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Massachusetts Poker Future Bright

by Ashley Adams

As a Boston resident, I am regularly asked about poker in Massachusetts. Sadly, there are no casinos or other public poker rooms in this state. However, in 2011, the state passed a law that enabled full-scale casino gambling here. In 2012, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was assembled; and in 2013, they accepted applications for casino licenses. Applicants have been investigated and their applications have been reviewed. Some have been rejected; some approved. Communities have voted, in accordance with the enabling legislation, on whether they will accept a casino. Some have rejected the projects; others have accepted them. One, Revere, will vote again on February 25th on a new proposal (the initial proposal included putting part of the casino in East Boston, who rejected the plan).

Here’s how the casino gambling picture in Massachusetts looks now, with my estimate of when poker will actually be available. There are three regions that have been given the right to have one licensed casino: Eastern, Southeastern, and Western/Central. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been given first crack at a license for Southeastern MA—but they had to have both a state compact, approved by the federal government, and a “land in trust” deal – because they do not have any tribal land. As of January 17th, their requisite compact with the state has been approved. They still do not have a land in trust agreement, however. And the entire matter of preferential treatment is under challenge by a private casino developer, KG Urban. So it may be a while before this casino deal is squared away. My guess is that this will not be fully sorted out until the beginning of 2015, with no spades in the ground until the end of 2015, and with the casino opened up by the winter of 2016.

Western/Central had many casino bidders initially. Now that the dust has settled, there is only the MGM proposal for a Springfield casino. What remains is for the casino to make its presentation, on January 22, 2014, and for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to review it and decide whether or not to award it the license. (State law does not require that an acceptable casino application be approved in each region, even if it is the only one for the region). It seems likely, though not definite that an MGM casino will open, with a poker room, by early to mid-2016.

Eastern Massachusetts now has two casino bidders: Wynn in Everett and Mohegan Sun in Revere. Wynn’s plan has been found acceptable by the state and has been approved by local referendum with an overwhelming 80% of the electorate voting in favor of it. The casino plan for Revere was modified from one initially including East Boston, after the East Boston voters rejected the plan. This new plan will go to a vote by Revere voters on February 25th. If it is approved then both the Wynn casino plan and the Mohegan Sun plan will go to the MGC for their review. The MGC may select one or none for development. Both include plans for a poker room, so expect a Boston area casino poker room by mid-2016.

Can’t wait until 2016? Good news! There are other poker options in and about Massachusetts right now. There’s the Eastern Poker Tour, that offers charity poker, both tournaments and cash games. They don’t have a permanent, daily, regular room. Rather they come in to different venues of all sorts, on different nights of the week, including the CBS Scene in Foxboro, MA and in bars, VFW Halls, all over Massachusetts and Rhode Island. You can find out when and where you can play in their tournaments and cash games at: www.easternpokertour.com.

Though there are no casinos yet in Massachusetts, two of the nicest poker rooms in the world are in nearby Connecticut, at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casino – one to two hours away from all points in Massachusetts. There are also many poker rooms in southern New Hampshire, within an hour of the Boston metro region, that offer excellent tournaments and mediocre cash games. For a complete listing of those rooms go to www.pokerinNH.com.

Editor’s Note: This column was written in early January. A well received presentation by MGM has already been made.

Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-card Stud, both available at Amazon.com. He is also the host of the popular poker radio show, House of Cards. For listening times and stations, to get a podcast of the show, or to check out the blog, go to www.houseofcardsradio.com. You can email Ashley at asha34@aol.com.

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