Massachusetts Regulator Tackles Its First Operator Violations

Massachusetts Regulator Tackles Its First Operator Violations

The incidents happened within the first two weeks of legal sports betting in the Bay State, showcasing the significant challenges standing before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. However, they will also be a valuable opportunity to test its compliance procedures. With mobile betting launching in less than a month, the regulator must set the right tone and ensure that all violators receive a strict but fair judgment.

All Three Sportsbooks Allowed Illegal Bets

The first reported violations occurred last week after two of the state’s three regulated operators self-reported breaching the strict rules regarding betting on in-state collegiate sports. Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino reportedly offered wagers on, respectively, the Boston College women’s basketball game and Merrimack College men’s basketball game, prompting an investigation from the Commission.

According to regulations, all betting activity on games involving a Massachusetts-based school is strictly banned unless the game is part of a tournament with at least four teams. This rule appears particularly challenging for operators. According to recent reports, MGM Springfield also allowed wagers on two Harvard men’s basketball games. All the violations so far have been self-reported, which should mollify the regulator.

Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein noted that the operator fully expected similar non-compliance issues. She has already helped schedule adjudicatory hearings regarding the three regulation breaches. The Commission admitted that sportsbooks were still unclear on what wagers were allowed under Massachusetts law, so it planned to post answers to the most frequent questions in an online FAQ document.

The Commission Prefers a Mindful Approach

Massachusetts Gaming Commission representatives stated that the incidents were currently under review and that a verdict would follow soon. Any decision would set a precedent for future such cases, which is why commissioners prefer to take their time in these first few cases.
Commissioner Jordan Maynard noted that the Commission was prepared for such violations and was mindful of the best way to handle them.

I want to set the goalposts with my fellow commissioners early on and then see how it’s working.

Commissioner Jordan Maynard

With online sports betting arriving on March 10, the regulator is currently funneling most of its efforts to ensure a smooth and trouble-free launch. Their real work will begin afterward, as online sportsbooks can be very difficult to track. The Commission’s work with the initial relatively benign violations can be viewed as the first live test of its compliance enforcement strategy.