Mass Regulators Claim BetMGM Allowed $42K In Improper Bets

Written By Mike Breen on February 22, 2024
A picture of a soccer ball with an

Massachusetts gaming regulators are accusing BetMGM of allowing several improper wagers in 2023. They include more than 2,500 bets on player penalties across multiple soccer leagues.

At a recent Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting, commissioners discussed their next steps and possible punishment.

Commission Enforcement Counsel Nathaniel Kennedy said the non-compliance incident involved “wagering on whether players would receive yellow or red penalty cards across multiple soccer leagues.”

MA regulations don’t allow betting on negative outcomes

Massachusetts sports betting law prohibits all wagering on negative events. For example, sportsbooks can’t accept bets on injuries, penalties, player discipline or replay review.

According to Kennedy, there were 2,564 such bets totaling over $42,000. The wagers were placed from March through December before the MGC was alerted.

Kennedy said the bets came on their radar when a Major League Soccer representative contacted MGC’s director of sports wagering, Bruce Band.

The representative requested the state not allow betting on soccer penalties. However, current regulations already prohibit it.

Thus, Band sent an email to all sportsbook operators in the state reminding them that it was a prohibited offering.

That’s when MGC officials and BetMGM Massachusetts itself “noticed that they had been in fact offering this prohibited type of wager,” Kennedy said.

It’s the first instance of a non-compliance incident related to player penalty bets. As a result, the commission requested an adjudicatory hearing on the matter.

Commissioners asked that the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) present evidence from their investigation, as well as recommendations for penalties, at the hearing.

Representatives from BetMGM will also be able to participate in the hearing. Penalties could range from monetary fines to license suspension. MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein thanked the MLS for bringing the matter to the commission’s attention.

“It’s telling that the league actually reached out, which we give them great credit for, because they’re looking after their players. The nature of (this violation) is different than what we’ve heard.”

MGM Springfield allegedly allowed bets on in-state college basketball game

The BetMGM retail sportsbook at MGM Springfield was also accused of accepting six wagers valued at approximately $180 on a regular season University of Massachusetts Amherst basketball game.

Such wagers violate state regulations prohibiting bets on any college teams from the commonwealth unless the teams are in a tournament. The commission requested that the MGM Springfield violation be returned to IEB for further investigation and penalty recommendations.

Last summer, the MGC levied $50,000 in fines on the three casinos in the state due to similar violations at their retail sportsbooks involving in-state college sports betting.

In early February, commissioners recommended an adjudicatory hearing for BetMGM over allegedly offering more than 15,000 college football player prop bets, which are also not allowed in the state.

MGC says BetMGM also accepted bets on completed table tennis matches

The commission also considered two non-compliance incidents. The first was when the online BetMGM sportsbook allowed bets on the Table Tennis Elite Series. It’s an extensive tournament played in Poland and features players from around the world.

MGC Enforcement Counsel Diandra Franks said the IEB conducted an initial review. She found that “the markets were available for wagering after the outcome of the matches were known.”

Massachusetts regulations forbid wagering on “any sporting event or wagering category in which the outcome has already been determined and is publicly known.”

The first incident allegedly occurred in June last year. It involved nine straight bets valued at a little over $1,600 and one parlay wager valued at approximately $20. The second incident was in October and involved six wagers valued at around $600.

Franks said BetMGM allowed all of the wagers to stand. That led Commissioner Eileen O’Brien to bluntly ask, “I thought illegal bets weren’t supposed to be paid out?”

There was also a non-compliance incident. BetMGM allegedly allowed a bet on an NFL game that had already been completed. No details were shared at the meeting.

A table tennis and NFL betting violation decision was pushed to the MGC’s Feb. 29 meeting. The commissioners wanted to check on previous rulings before deciding the next steps.

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Mike Breen

Mike Breen is an Ohio-based professional writer who has more than two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture. He has covered online sports betting, responsible gambling, and other gambling initiatives for a variety of markets over the last couple of years. That now includes PlayMA.

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