Massachusetts Sports Betting Operators Failed to Attend Roundtable on Gambling Limits

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 23, 2024 08:00 PM
Massachusetts Sports Betting Operators Failed to Attend Roundtable on Gambling Limits

Massachusetts sports betting regulators are not thrilled with the majority of operators in the Bay State after they failed to attend a recent roundtable scheduled to address gambling limits.

The meeting took place on Tuesday, May 21. Though attendance was not considered mandatory, state officials are “angered” and “frustrated” after missing out on what they believe was a valuable opportunity to bring more transparency to sports betting in Massachusetts.

In total, 10 Massachusetts online sportsbooks opted out of the roundtable. The only operator in attendance was Bally Sports, which has yet to officially launch their online sportsbook in Massachusetts

Why did most of the Bay State’s sports gambling stakeholders refuse to attend the meeting? What, exactly, was supposed to happen during this roundtable? And above all, what happens now? Will there be any fallout? Will the issue in question become contentious?

Let’s find out.

Why Massachusetts Sports Betting Operators Opted Out of a Recent Roundtable

Sports betting limits in Massachusetts were the subject of this roundtable. As officials for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) have pointed out, most of the online sportsbooks in the United States do not have their gambling limits front-facing on their websites. While this roundtable wasn’t attempting to create new policies out of the gate, officials were hoping they could start a dialogue. 

However, in a joint email, the absent operators pushed back against the MGC’s intentions. This, in turn, prompted a variety of responses from the MGC’s members and other industry sources. Mike Mazzeo of Legal Sports Report provided a treasure trove of insight into the current situation:

“In email responses to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the MA sports betting operators universally said they did not want to disclose confidential risk management practices and other sensitive business information in a public setting…One industry source summed up what transpired Tuesday to LSR. ‘Probably a pretty good indication of how much clout the industry views the commission as having,’ the person said. 

“Separately, gaming legal expert John Holden told LSR: ‘The lack of participation from any of the operators is probably a signal that any changes here are going to come really slowly. And there’s probably going to be a fight along the way over it…I do think that the regulators’ hands are somewhat tied by the legislation. They can’t effectively go out and do whatever they want. I think if progress is to be made, going about this by brute force probably isn’t the best approach. The gaming commission is responsible for protecting consumers. But at the same time, you need to have a working relationship with operators as well.’”

Our question: Could this be an overreaction by Massachusetts online sportsbook operators?

The MGC Doesn’t Seem to be Asking Too Much of Massachusetts Online Sportsbooks

Unless we’re missing something, this response from online Massachusetts sports betting sites seems wildly over the top. 

Once more, this meeting wasn’t trying to implement new legislation right away. Nor did the subject seem as if it could be particularly damaging, let alone controversial. Officials wanted to focus on maximum-bet requirements. They don’t understand why users sometimes have to keep submitting wager slips only to see notifications like “Maximum bet limit exceeded; please try againwithout seeing a message that also concretely outlines where the maximum bet lands.

How does that infringe upon “confidential risk management” practices? This response in itself seems sketchy—or like a power play. Do sportsbooks in Massachusetts simply not want to disclose how they determine maximum betting limits? Are they hoping to keep it a rolling number based on the bet type, event, amount of action, etc.? Are they simply angry that Massachusetts has considered creating a national self-exclusion gambling list that could impact bottom line?

Regardless, the MGC’s angle here doesn’t seem especially demanding. If anything, it sounds like they wanted to have a collaborative discussion. The fact that Mr. Holden, the gaming expert, told LSR this matter could turn contentious is something we can’t quite wrap our heads around.

What’s the Next Step for the Discussion Surrounding Massachusetts Sports Betting Limits?

The answer to this question remains unclear. Somehow, someway, the MGC will need to get in a room with the state’s sports betting operators. How they’ll do that remains to be seen. They could make the next roundtable mandatory and threaten to assess penalties to licenses Massachusetts sports betting operators if they fail to attend. But this presumes they have the power to do so. 

Perhaps companies will be forced to the table after hearing the public speak on the matter. Anyone was allowed to attend the first meeting. This included consumers. 

Some of them provided comments that paint this matter in a telltale light. As one joint comment from sports bettors in Massachusetts read (via LSR): “To prey on certain gamblers for large amounts and then limit other gamblers to $3 on bets is just ridiculous.” 

Responses like this should elicit action from sports betting companies. Just as the MGC needs to collaborate with them, they need to prioritize the customer. And it’s clear that Massachusetts sports bettors care about the lack of transparency on gambling limits. 

All of which, in our opinion, puts the onus on sportsbooks to take this matter seriously. It’s one thing if the MGC is trying to exercise too much power without remedying real issues. Based on the reporting we see, though, this is a matter that sportsbooks appear to be blowing way out of proportion.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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