The Massachusetts Gaming Commission Tuesday issued three fines totaling $50,000 to the state’s three casinos, following hearings earlier in the summer regarding their respective sportsbooks offering wagers on unapproved markets. MGM Springfield (BetMGM) and Plainridge Park (Barstool Sportsbook) were each fined $20,000 for violations, while Encore Boston Harbor (WynnBET) was fined $10,000.
Retail sportsbooks at all three casinos took bets on Massachusetts college basketball teams in the early going after retail wagering went live Jan. 31, which is not legal unless the teams are playing in a tournament with four or more participants. All three sportsbooks self-reported the violations, and all were essentially administrative errors.
In all cases, sportsbooks pulled the illegal markets immediately. When possible, tickets were voided and both winners and losers were refunded their initial bets. In some cases, the bettors weren’t traceable.
On Monday, the MGC held a hearing after being informed that DraftKings allowed wagering on multiple UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) events between March 11-22 on which wagering was not permitted in Massachusetts. DraftKings self-reported the error.
According to DraftKings executives, betting on UTR events is available in other jurisdictions in which DraftKings operates, and the operator making it available for wagering in Massachusetts was an error that has since been cleared up. UTR markets were immediately removed from available offerings in Massachusetts. The MGC did not immediately rule on the DraftKings violation.
Here’s a look at the issues at the three retail casinos, how each situation happened, and what has changed:
Encore Boston Harbor
The WynnBET sportsbook at Encore took a single bet on Feb. 2, 2023, on a Boston College vs. Notre Dame women’s basketball game, and notified the MGC immediately. Wagering on the market was available for about five hours and the bet was included in a five-team parlay. The wager, which was placed on a kiosk, was voided before the ticket was settled.
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During its hearing in March, executives from Encore Boston Harbor explained that Boston College women’s basketball was entered into its system incorrectly by GAN, which runs the WynnBET back end. According to testimony at the hearing, the team was in the system as “Boston College women’s basketball” and “Boston College Eagles women’s basketball,” but only one of those names was blocked.
WynnBET now does twice-daily audits of college basketball teams to prevent a recurrence.
The sportsbook at MGM Springfield allowed wagers on a pair of Harvard men’s basketball games on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 after Harvard’s location was inaccurately entered into the BetMGM system as Connecticut. The school is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and should have been blocked for wagering. Betting on Harvard was available for about 20 hours around each event, and 28 wagers were placed via kiosks. Of those 28, two winning tickets were redeemed at an on-site cashier and two were redeemed at kiosks.
MGM was proactive in discovering the violation. After learning of potential violations at both Encore and Plainridge Park, MGM requested that BetMGM, which runs sports betting, review all bets taken from the Jan. 31 launch through Feb. 10. A two-day audit revealed the violations. Employees at the BetMGM sportsbook now do a daily audit of all markets before the sportsbook opens. It also plans to conduct quality control reviews and perform quarterly audits.
Thirty-three wagers were accepted at the Barstool Sportsbook at Plainridge Park on a single basketball game between Merrimack College and Long Island University Feb. 2. According to testimony from Plainridge Park executives at a hearing earlier this year, back-end provider Kambi had entered Merrimack College as located in Florida, and because of that was not blocked on the company’s Massachusetts platform.
Since then, Kambi conducted an audit to make sure that all Massachusetts college teams have the proper locations in its system, and Barstool Sportsbook has moved its technology in-house — and recently shut down its platform for three days to complete the migration to the new back-end system.
DraftKings loathe to divulge details publically
The details of how the DraftKings error on UTR events happened were not shared during the public portion of the hearing, but rather in a private session.
DraftKings’ Jake List requested the private session saying there is a lot of “detail that goes into these processes and the communication between these organizations doesn’t only affect compliance, it’s competitive in nature and also potentially enables customers to more easily exploit us.”
In total, 864 wagers totaling $7,867 were placed at events in Barcelona, Newport Beach, Calif., and Argentina. According to attorney Zachary Mercer on behalf of the Investigations Enforcement Bureau, DraftKings became aware of the wagers March 22 and reported them to the MGC March 23. The operator also voided all wagers, pulling winnings from or crediting losses back to accounts.
Mercer went on to say that in its report to the MGC, DraftKings wrote that the issue came up due to a “miscommunication between trading and trading compliance team” and going forward, said that all new tennis markets must be reviewed by the trading compliance team before the markets can go live.