Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Adopt Stricter Rules for Gambling on NCAA Events?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 6, 2023 12:00 AM
Will Massachusetts sports betting head NCAA's call for stricter college gambling rules?

The regulation of Massachusetts sports betting has been among the most aggressive in the United States. Ever since legal sports gambling in The Bay State debuted in January 2023, officials have placed an emphasis on monitoring sportsbooks, tweaking wagering policies and investigating any and all violations. Could betting on the NCAA catch the attention of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission next?

This can seem like a somewhat obvious question. It may also come across as pointless. There have already been investigations into NCAA gambling violations done by The Codfish State as well as many other places. 

Recently, though, executives from the NCAA have called for stricter rules, regulations and overarching practices when it comes to their events and, most critically, student athletes. And while they have not called out sports betting in Massachusetts specifically, the state’s track record suggests they will rank among the states most likely, if not inclined, to seriously listen to college sports’ governing body.

The NCAA President is Recommending Specific Sports Betting Policies

Aside from how meticulous Massachusetts sports betting regulation has been, this issue is also topical because the president of the NCAA just so happens to be former Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker. He has a major hand in setting up sports gambling policies in anticipation of legalization that the state still utilizes today. His pre-existing ties could increase the likelihood any of his recommendations wind up being implemented.

What are these sports betting recommendations from the NCAA exactly? Baker laid them out in a recent press release. Here is the meat and potatoes of what he had to say (via Nick Juliano of Casino.org): 

“The NCAA is making changes to help student-athletes make smart choices when it comes to sports betting, but given the explosive growth of this new industry, we are eager to partner with lawmakers, regulators, and industry leaders to protect student-athletes from harassment and threats. Some states have great policies on the books to protect student-athletes from harassment and coercion and to protect the integrity of the games. The NCAA is calling on states to establish mandatory reporting hotlines to allow players or university officials to report harassment or coercive behavior to authorities. It also wants state regulators to increase penalties on gamblers who are found to have harassed athletes.”

Baker’s sentiments come amid not just an increase in sports betting throughout the United States, but an uptick in related college sports gambling scandals. These issues have ranged from information being leaked by university employees to student-athletes themselves placing wagers on their own teams. 

Will Massachusetts Sports Betting Officials Look to Implement the Policies Laid Out by the NCAA?

This is something that will play out in due time. Plus, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission already has one of the better, well-articulated college sports gambling policies in place. 

Generally speaking, though, the state’s regulatory arm has focused on sportsbooks and casinos. Most recently, Massachusetts issued fines to three different sportsbooks for various violations. And some of those penalties were doled out due to the acceptance of illegal wagers

This is all to say, there’s always room for improvement. And in the name of student-athlete protection, the NCAA has suggested a list of blanket policies. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

  • Set the legal gambling age to 21: Massachusetts already has this one covered. You must be 21 years of age or older to place wagers at casinos or with online sportsbooks in the United States. However, in some locations, the legal sports gambling age is 18. That poses dilemmas from the NCAA’s perspective, since it allows just about every college-age athlete to gain access to sports betting operators.
  • Set up a hotline for student-athletes to report harassment: This was already mentioned above, but it bears repeating. For the most part, states have hotlines and resources to deal with gambling addictions. Mechanisms for athletes to self-report harassment due to sports betting are much less common.
  • Dedicate funding for problem gambling awareness education directed at high-risk college students: This is a biggie. Like we mentioned above, most states fund problem-gambling programs. However, very few of these programs are targeted to specific demographics. They are more like at-large resources.

It is not immediately clear how well the NCAA’s policy recommendations were received by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission or other states. We also would not expect there to be a mad dash to implement these suggestions. Policy changes and additions are notoriously slow-moving, and there are plenty of governing arms that prefer looser restrictions in the name of maximizing sports betting revenue. 

Massachusetts Sports Betting Regulation is Imperfect, But Already Ahead of the Game

Time will tell whether Massachusetts adopts any of the NCAA recommendations they don’t already have in place. But on some level, they are ahead of the curve.

At least one of the Massachusetts sports betting investigations entailed looking into a company’s advertising methodology. The MGC investigated a sportsbook for how it promoted a picks recommendation, focusing specifically on the language used, which implied every bet was a “lock.” 

This needs to become the future of sports betting regulation. It doesn’t directly tie into the harassment of student-athletes, but it is a contributing factor. Right now, most states do not have ultra-concrete policies on how sportsbooks are allowed to advertise. That needs to change. 

In this case specifically, limiting the amount of advertising sports betting operators are allowed to do on or near college campuses would be a huge deal. In theory, that would diminish the exposure to sports gambling for student-athlete-age clients. By extension, then, this should repress the number of college students and athletes who develop gambling addiction. It would also limit the number of promotions tied to college sporting events, which in turn should lower the number of harassment cases. 

Of course, there is no perfect solution to this dilemma. That is the trade-off states have made by legalizing and profiting off sports betting. Short of disallowing bets on all college sports, it’ll be impossible to eradicate the harassment of student-athletes and instances of underage gambling addiction. Still, the absence of policies for sports betting advertisements is glaring, if not daming. A handful of states are already considering revampment and tighter restrictions. We can’t be sure which ones will ultimately implement them first. But if we had to guess, Massachusetts will be at or near the top of the list.

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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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