Three Massachusetts Casinos Fined for Illegal In-State Collegiate Sports Betting

August 11, 2023

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission fined Plainridge Park Casino (Plainridge), MGM Springfield (MGM) and Encore Boston Harbor (Encore) for illegally allowing their patrons to place bets on in-state collegiate teams back in February 2023 at their sportsbooks. The fines levied against these Massachusetts casinos totaled $50,000:

  1. Encore was fined $10,000 for taking a single bet on a women’s NCAA basketball game between Boston College and Notre Dame as part of a five-game parlay.
  2. Plainridge was fined $20,000 for accepting 33 bets on a men’s NCAA basketball game between Merrimack College and Long Island University.
  3. MGM was fined $20,000 for accepting 2 bets on a men’s NCAA basketball game between Harvard University and Yale University.

Although Massachusetts became the 33rd state to legalize sports betting, effective as of January 31, 2023, the Massachusetts law imposes certain restrictions on college and high school sports betting. The Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act prohibits wagering on in-state collegiate teams unless they are in a tournament with four or more competitors, such as March Madness or the Frozen Four. Therefore, the bets placed at the Massachusetts casino sportsbooks on the three Massachusetts colleges violated the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act.

It appears that the casinos’ defense for the illegal sports betting incidents is that there were systematic failures and oversight. With respect to the Plainridge and MGM incidents, the Massachusetts colleges were incorrectly labeled as being out of state colleges. The Plainridge sportsbook mislabeled Merrimack as a Florida college and the MGM sportsbook mislabeled Harvard as a Connecticut college. With respect to the Encore incident, Encore realized its error for placing a bet on a Massachusetts-collegiate team before the game started and the casino voided the Boston College leg of the parlay wager. However, such remedial measures did not bar the casino from facing consequences for its initial violation of the law. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission stated that the fines were intended as both a consequence for violating state law and commission regulations, and to deter sportsbooks from making the same or similar violations in the future.

Because each state has adopted its own rules, regulations and laws with respect to sports wagering, it is paramount for sportsbooks to know the respective laws and follow them on a state-by-state basis. Moreover, in Massachusetts, it appears that the law will be reviewed with great scrutiny and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will not have a lot of leniency towards any violation regardless of the reason given for such violations.