Massachusetts Sports Betting Penalties Doled Out to 3 Sportsbooks

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 8, 2023 12:00 AM
Three sportsbooks were issued Massachusetts sports betting fines.

The crackdowns on Massachusetts sports betting operators still show no signs of slowing. And one of the best online sportsbooks in the United States could be next to receive a hefty penalty.

Last week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) fined sportsbooks located in three casinos for accepting illegal wagers. The three operators impacted were Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino.  

The trio of fines are a drop in the bucket, totaling well under $100,000. Encore Boston was docked $10,000 while MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino were each penalized $20,000.

Still, the fines themselves speak to a larger trend in the state. Ever since sports betting in Massachusetts went live at the end of January, officials have focused on ensuring every licensed operator is above board. The regulatory process has gotten even more intensive over the past few months, now that The Bay State is well removed from the rollout and all the functional logistics comes with it. With legal gambling more entrenched, their attention has shifted from expansion and maintenance to compliance. 

Another Massachusetts online sportsbook, in fact, may already be in the MGC’s sights. Which one is it? Why are they in the MGC’s crosshairs? What illegal wagers were accepted at the three aforementioned sportsbooks? Should we expect this trend to continue? Or is this purely an issue of operators getting acclimated to a new sports gambling market and its fairly unique structure?

College Games at the Root of Massachusetts Sports Betting Fines

In the case of Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Casino, all three were fined for accepting illegal bets on college sports. Colin A. Young of NBC 10 in Boston outlined the full details:

Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville was fined $20,000 for taking bets on a Feb. 2 regular season men's basketball game between Merrimack College and Long Island University, MGM Springfield was hit with a $20,000 penalty for offering action on regular season Harvard men's basketball games on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett was fined $10,000 for taking a bet on a Feb. 2 regular season game involving the Boston College women's basketball team.

“The Gaming Commission determined the incidents were each ‘a serious violation of statute, regulation, and the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Catalog’ and said the fines were intended as both a consequence for violating state law and commission regulations, and ‘as a deterrent from letting the same or similar violations occur again.’”

Though the sportsbooks accepted wagers on separate events, they all pertained to college competitions and all happened within days of each other. Believe it or not, the circumstances actually make sense. 

Massachusetts sports betting laws don’t allow operators to accept wagers on in-state college teams unless they’re part of a tournament, playoff bracket or championship competition. These stipulations, which we plucked right from the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Catalog, can be a little confusing at first glance. Many have taken it to mean that all Massachusetts college sports betting is illegal. Some have assumed it only took effect when these programs were playing inside the state. Really, though, the rule mandates all Massachusetts college teams are off limits unless they’re playing in a tournament-style setting..

While excusing regulatory infractions would be inconsistent and dangerous, the amount of these fines suggest a level of understanding. The illegal bets were accepted during the first week of Massachusetts sports gambling, at a time when operators were juggling a bunch of different factors. On top of that, at least a couple of these casinos likely cull their lines from bigger-time sportsbooks, many of whom would no doubt be carrying lines for these events in other states without issue.

DraftKings Could be the Next Sportsbook to Receive a Fine from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission 

This is far from the first fine handed out by the MGC. It most definitely won’t be the last, either.

Weeks ago, Massachusetts sports betting officials started investigating Barstool Sportsbook for their now-defunct “Can’t Lose” parlay promotion. More recently, the MGC deliberated whether to penalize DraftKings Sportsbook after they admitted to “took hundreds of bets on unauthorized tennis events.

The incident, which was self-reported, consisted of DraftKings accepting “864 wagers and $7,867 in total action on UTR Pro Tennis Tour events, which were not included on the authorized Massachusetts Sports Wagering Catalog,” according to an announcement. Anyone who placed a winning bet had their profits repealed and the initial wager fee was refunded to everyone.

Still, the MGC has made a habit of dinging sportsbooks for all infractions, no matter how small, regardless of whether they were self-reported. And while the Commission has yet to decide how or if they’ll punish DraftKings, they have said they’re taking the matter “very seriously.”

Our best guess? DraftKings will end up with a fine, perhaps one that’s more substantial than the most recent ones handed out. The total amount of money involved here wasn’t massive; it was under $8,000. But DraftKings is the leading online betting site in Massachusetts. We would expect the MGC to hold them to a higher standard. Letting them slide would also be inconsistent with how they handled punishments for the other three sportsbooks most recently.

With all of this in mind, we’ll have to see whether these infractions are limited to the early months of Massachusetts sports betting or if they’re part of a more recurrent pattern that MGC must monitor even more closely.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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