Online sports betting in Massachusetts went live on March 10, and six sportsbook apps are now available to Bay Staters. All of those platforms ensure geocompliance from their customers before they can create an account and place a bet.
Another way of saying the same thing: No one outside of Massachusetts can partake in the online sports betting market.
What is geocompliance? How do you show it? And what might get in the way of setting it up? We’ll cover that here, so bettors can participate in Massachusetts online sports betting without a hitch.
What is geocompliance, and why do you need to show it?
Geocompliance is the process of showing one’s geographical location through a digital method via the internet.
Simply put, it’s the way you prove to an online entity (in this case, an online sportsbook) that you are physically located where you say you are.
The reason the sports betting industry in the US requires it is because not all states offer sports betting. When the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, it ruled that individual states should decide the legality of sports betting. So far, 33 states and Washington, DC have done so.
Thus, if you live in a state without legal sports betting, and you try to place a bet on an app, you’ll be stopped in your tracks. Maybe this has happened to you already. If so — no shame. But also, consider that you ran into a geofence.
This could also happen if you live in a state like Massachusetts where sports betting is legal, but you go visit your grandparents’ lake house in Vermont (where sports betting is illegal). Your home state sports betting apps will block your bets.
Geocompliance requires you to follow the laws of the state you’re in, not the state where you live.
How do you show geocompliance?
Depending on whether you’re betting through your mobile device or through a PC or Mac, there are a few different ways to show you’re in Massachusetts.
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Phones and tablets make this easiest. Just turn on location services.
If you’re an Apple user, follow the pathway:
Settings>>>Privacy and Security>>>Location Services (Set to “On”)>>>Access the sports betting app and confirm to share your location.
If you use an Android device, it’s a similar pathway:
Settings>>>Location (set to “On”)>>>App Permissions>>>Locate sports betting app of choice and select “allow location services all the time” OR “only when using the app” (it’s up to you).
PC or Mac
Laptops and desktops show geocompliance through their unique IP addresses. These addresses, linked to your home internet, represent the physical location of your internet connection.
For both PC and Mac, you don’t need to do anything to show your IP address. That information is passed automatically to the sports book.
What might cause you to be geofenced out of your sportsbook app?
A number of factors associated with geolocation might keep you from making a bet. Some are related to specific venues while others deal with the way your devices gather your geolocation.
In some states where online sports betting is permitted in specific venues, geocompliance requires bettors to prove that they’re not only in the state but in the actual brick-and-mortar building designated for sports betting. GPS services can pinpoint your location quite well, but when it comes down to being on the right side of a doorway to place a bet, GPS isn’t enough.
In these cases, venues set up elaborate bluetooth-based geofences that can pinpoint your geolocation within a few feet. In those cases, you’ll need bluetooth to place a bet.
This will not be a concern for Bay Staters as mobile sports betting is legal statewide, but it is worth noting when traveling to other states or districts. For example, hockey fans taking a road trip to Washington, DC to watch the Bruins play the Capitals will need to consider geofencing laws. Capital One Arena, home of the Capitals, allows mobile sports betting within a two-block radius of the venue.
For people betting at home using a PC or Mac, geocompliance can be affected by a number of factors.
- IP address: The unique physical address of your internet connection at your house. This address is fairly accurate, but if you live very close to a border, you may find yourself geofenced out of an app because the IP address is not accurate enough. Talk to your internet service provider to resolve this.
- Wifi signal: Depending on the strength of your wifi signal, your laptop may get geofenced out of a program if the signal is too weak.
- Large bodies of water: Houses on major lakes, rivers and other large bodies of water sometimes receive interference in their geolocation services. Bay Staters near the coast, particularly on the Cape and Gloucester and Rockport, may encounter interference.
Using mobile devices to place bets online is the easiest way to avoid all this since phones have accurate GPS-based location services built into their 4G, 5G and wifi connections.
VPNs and remote desktop programs can stop you from placing a bet
Some bettors may be wondering about using VPNs to get around geofenced apps. The quick response to that is: Don’t.
You’ll likely be blocked from using the apps immediately if you’re on a VPN, and you may be blocked indefinitely from returning to the app. Do you risk prosecution for such acts of subterfuge? Probably not, but the industry is always changing.
Remote desktop programs that allow people from other states remote access to your computer can also cause you to hit the geofence when trying to access a mobile sportsbook. The idea being that the sportsbook thinks someone from another state is “tunneling” into your computer to place a bet.
So, if you’re getting geofenced out of your sportsbook app, make sure you don’t have any remote desktop programs running in the background.
GeoComply is a simple geocompliance solution
Another solution to ensuring geocompliance is by using plugins that help pinpoint your location. GeoComply, the standard in geolocation services for the sports betting industry, offers a plugin for bettors. Some sportsbook apps in some states require it. Just download it and run it on your desktop or download the app and run it on your mobile device.
Using GeoComply provides an added layer of security for the sportsbooks and an added layer of confidence for you in knowing you’re less likely to get geofenced out of an app.
Geocompliance in Massachusetts is straightforward
In Massachusetts, geocompliance is fairly simplistic.
With all operators available via mobile apps, there are no physical locations bettors will need to navigate.
Jon Pappas, public affairs expert at Geocomply, explained to PlayMA that needing a GeoComply plugin also “won’t be an issue for Massachusetts bettors. All apps going live have GeoComply capabilities built into the apps.”
The “large body of water” concern may affect Bay Staters on the coast, or bettors looking to bet up to 3 miles off the MA coast (which is within state boundaries for sports betting). In those cases, using a mobile device to show geocompliance circumvents the water hazard.
None of this is to say that hiccups and software glitches will be absent. PlayMA will be tracking app performance at launch and providing performance updates from Massachusetts bettors, so you’ll always know where to go to have the best experience in this new market.