Massachusetts Sports Bettors & Industry Experts Share Stories of Being Limited for Winning

Written By Mike Breen on May 30, 2024

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission addressed the common sportsbook practice of limiting the amount an individual can wager during a roundtable discussion on May 21. 

None of the state’s active sports wagering operators participated in the meeting, which frustrated the commissioners. They had hoped to receive precise data on the number of bettors currently facing Massachusetts sports betting restrictions and learn more about why their betting options have been limited. 

In reality, commissioners welcomed input from industry guests and members of the public. discussed at the roundtable gave some indication of where the conversation about bet limiting will likely go in the coming months, as the MGC considers whether new regulations might be required to protect rule-abiding customers.

Sportsbooks say they limit bettors for problem gaming concerns, not for winning big

Bet limiting is a hot topic in the gambling world, particularly since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowed states to legalize sports betting. Only New Jersey has a regulation that doesn’t allow operators to ban a customer simply for winning. But sportsbooks in New Jersey are still allowed to limit bet amounts at their discretion.

Last week’s Massachusetts roundtable was the first of its kind. Similarly, any regulations regarding bet-limiting practices would be revolutionary in the U.S.

Sports wagering operators have said that they do not limit bettors simply for winning. Sportsbook terms and conditions say limiting users is at their discretion. When they do limit wager amounts, operators have said it is due to problem gambling indicators. It can also be due to suspicion over player manipulating the sportsbook or otherwise exploiting incongruent pricing to earn an advantage. 

But on social media and in reports in other media, bettors frequently share stories of being limited solely for winning too much or too frequently, despite reportedly adhering to all sportsbook guidelines.

Massachusetts bettors share stories of being limited for winning

Since opening public comments on the matter in late March, the MGC has received dozens of messages from Massachusetts bettors relaying their stories of being limited. Several went into detail about their actions and the operators’ responses. They say it punishes skilled gamblers and even those who just get lucky.

One bettor described themselves as a recreational bettor who spent time studying odds and learning the best ways to win while still following the rules. After finally being able to win more than they lost, Massachusetts sportsbooks limited their wagering to under $10.

“I have never made multiple accounts or performed any fraudulent activity,” the player said. “I have only played by the sportsbooks rules, and through no fault of my own (except working hard) I am now limited in the profits I can make through my hobby.”

The Boston Herald recently told the story of a Massachusetts bettor who took a chance and wagered $375 at FanDuel on a non-quarterback player throwing a touchdown at this year’s Super Bowl. When that happened, he won $13,500. But he immediately found he was limited to bets of $50 or less at FanDuel.

Roundtable participants discuss sportsbooks marketing big wins

Multiple roundtable participants repeated the phrase “fundamental fairness” when discussing the need for more clarity on wagering limits. They see part of that inequity come into play in sportsbook marketing, where operators promote the possibility of big wins on big bets. Sportsbooks use VIP hosts and special bonuses to target big-spending bettors to spend more and some worry that includes players who are at risk for problem gambling.  

Industry consultant Dustin Gouker also participated in the roundtable, noting that sportsbooks will likely attempt to lure larger wagers by promoting stories of big-money winners. He said that Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy, who has a partnership deal with DraftKings, has regularly talked about his up-to-$1 million wagers through DraftKings.

Gouker reasoned:

“It’s discordant to say, ‘Look, this guy over here can bet … millions of dollars if he wants’ and market that as a selling point. Then over here you have people who can bet a dollar. It gives this idea that you can bet what you want and I don’t think that really fairly assesses what’s going on in the marketplace right now.”

Massachusetts has fairly strict regulations for sportsbook advertising. The MGC implemented such rules to protect underage users and prohibit the use of deceptive language like “risk-free.” So, could commissioners consider restrictions regarding the marketing of long-shot big wins? Judging by the roundtable discussions, it seems like it could be on the table.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayMA
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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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