Legal sports betting has been in Massachusetts for less than a month and already all three sportsbooks operators have violated the rules and accepted illegal wagers.
That triggered the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to hold talks a week ago to see how they can prevent this from happening in the future.
The violations were committed at Plainridge Park Casino, Encore Boston Harbor, and MGM Springfield. All three accepted bets on college basketball games involving universities in the state. The law clearly prohibits betting on any game involving a Massachusetts-based school unless the game is part of a tournament with at least four teams.
Chief Enforcement Counsel Heather Hall reported to the MGC that Plainridge took bets on a Merrimack College men’s basketball game against Long Island University. There were 33 bets at a total of $6,848, Hall said.
Hall added that all but four bets were made at betting kiosks. An employee told his supervisor about the bets.
Encore took one bet on a Boston College women’s basketball game against Notre Dame. Encore management voided the Boston College leg of a parlay ticket.
Bruce Band, the MGC’s director of sports wagering, said at the meeting that MGM Springfield took bets on two Harvard men’s basketball games.
Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein told the State House News Service that they expected to have violations early on, saying now their emphasis should be on how to prevent violations in the future, especially since mobile betting launches in the state on March 10.
“This is an important first decision-making point on these matters,” Judd-Stein said. “I think we recognized that we would probably have, almost immediately, issues with respect to non-compliance given this industry.”
While the commission said they expected the mistakes, they also want to make sure that those, and future violations, are dealt with appropriately.
“We’ve had three of these now in a week-and-a-half’s time,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said. “I don’t know what the volume is going to be, but certainly as we were reviewing operator applications we learned that these are relatively routine—and I’m not sure if we use the word routine—but they’re relatively routine matters.”
Sportsbook operators told the regulators there is some confusion regarding the law on what bets can be taken.
“The Sports Wagering Division has received questions regarding whether certain types of wagers may be offered,” commission lawyers wrote in a memo to commissioners. “Specifically, questions have been received related to offerings for awards given to individual collegiate athletes, future bets on Massachusetts collegiate teams that have not yet qualified for a tournament, wagers on Massachusetts collegiate teams if the outcome of an event is decided via regular season results only, and associated issues related to the scope of permissible wagers.”
The commission agreed to have adjudicatory hearings where the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau and operators can present information, and the commission could determine any penalties based on the information presented.
“The commission, this early on and as I said earlier in its infancy, needs to set the goalposts,” Commissioner Jordan Maynard said. “I want to set the goalposts with my fellow commissioners early on, and then see how it’s working. And I know that’s going to create a little bit more work on the front end, both for the commissioners and for the IEB … but I think later on, it’s gonna be very beneficial to the entire organization.”