Massachusetts Sportsbooks Admit Accepting Illegal Bets

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Posted on: February 10, 2023, 10:55h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2023, 12:34h.

Massachusetts sportsbooks commenced their operations on January 31 and, less than 10 days in, two of the three legal sports betting retailers have admitted to regulatory infractions.

Massachusetts sportsbook sports betting WynnBet Barstool
Merrimack College’s Hammel Court — home to the school’s men’s and women’s college basketball games. A Massachusetts sportsbook said it took bets on Merrimack that it shouldn’t have, as college sports involving state schools are prohibited under state law. (Image: Merrimack College)

Massachusetts’ sports betting rules prohibit sportsbooks from accepting bets on college sports that involve state-based universities. The exception is when those colleges participate in a tournament with a minimum of four competing teams.

The WynnBet Sportsbook at Encore Boston Harbor and Barstool Sportsbook at Plainridge Park informed the state this week about failing to adhere to the college wagering condition.

I do commend both operators for self-reporting,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Chair Cathy Judd-Stein during the agency’s Thursday meeting.

Judd-Stein said the MGC will review how other state gaming regulators have decided to penalize sportsbook operators that committed regulatory infractions. The commissioners plan to address possible punishments during their next meeting on Tuesday, February 14.

Massachusetts debuted sports betting at the state’s three casinos, with BetMGM at MGM Springfield being the other book. Online operations are expected to begin on March 10.

Regulatory Infractions

Plainridge Park’s Barstool Sportsbook told the MGC that it wrongly accepted bets for about seven hours on a men’s basketball game involving Merrimack College. Encore Boston Harbor’s WynnBet Sportsbook conceded that it took bets for about five hours on a Boston College women’s basketball game.

MGC Chief Enforcement Counsel Heather Hall said the state is still reviewing how much money was actually wagered on those games. Judd-Stein and the MGC will likely hear how state gaming regulators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have fined sportsbooks for rogue bets.

Last March, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement hit BetMGM with a $25K fine for taking bets on games involving New Jersey college basketball teams. Though the state concluded that the book took less than $100 in bets before realizing the error, the state still fined the operator. New Jersey also prohibits wagering on college games involving state-based universities.

In Pennsylvania, the state Gaming Control Board last December slapped BetMGM with a $7,500 fine for accepting wagers on an exhibition boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Victor Belfort.

The state only allows sportsbooks to offer lines on boxing matches that are sanctioned by a governing authority, such as the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which regulates professional and amateur boxing bouts in that state.

Busy Betting Weekend

This Sunday is Super Bowl LVII, and though Massachusetts’ adored New England Patriots aren’t playing in the big game, the first Super Bowl weekend with legal sports betting in the commonwealth is expected to be a busy one for the three sportsbooks. Judd-Stein said that while the state is appreciative of WynnBet and Barstool self-reporting their operational errors, she wants to make sure no further infractions are incurred this weekend.

As for immediate remedial steps, Bruce Band — the MGC’s director of sports wagering who previously served the MGC as the assistant director of the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau — said the books have already implemented better regulatory processes.

Band explained that on-site sportsbook officials at WynnBet have taken over inputting the book’s daily betting catalog. Previously, the book allowed its third-party sportsbook supplier — GAN — to manage the WynnBet Massachusetts list of approved events.

At Plainridge Park, Barstool officials say they will review the catalog nightly before the following day’s action to ensure no prohibited college games are offered.

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