Massachusetts Sportsbooks Decline Roundtable Discussion on Setting Bet Limits

Written By Mike Breen on May 22, 2024
Massachusetts sportsbook bet limiting roundtable

A public roundtable discussion about wager limits in sports betting was itself limited after all current Massachusetts sportsbook operators initially slated to appear backed out of participating. 

The Tuesday roundtable with members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission revolved around the widespread practice of sportsbooks severely limiting the amount a bettor can wager after they win big and/or frequently. Some opponents of the practice have called for restrictions or a prohibition on bet limiting. At the very least, concerned parties want more transparency and communication about how and why betting limits are imposed on individual bettors.

Massachusetts sportsbooks skirt discussion on bet limit practices

According to commissioners, the six online sportsbooks operating in Massachusetts initially signaled a willingness to attend the roundtable. But in the days leading up to the May 21 meeting, representatives from BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, Fanatics and ESPN Bet each sent messages declining the invitation.

The operators said they might be willing to discuss the issue in a non-public forum in the future since proprietary information could be involved. However, MGC legal counsel said holding the meeting in executive session would likely violate Massachusetts’ open-meeting laws. 

Roundtable participants said they believed this was the first time in the U.S. that a regulatory body has held a public hearing about the practice of bet limiting in the sports betting industry.

A representative from Bally’s Interactive, Justin Black, did appear at Tuesday’s roundtable, though his participation was minimal. Bally Bet plans to launch its sportsbook in Massachusetts this summer. Other participants included professional gambler Jack Andrews from the sports betting resource website Unabated Sports, gambling industry consultant Dustin Gouker, and responsible gaming policy consultant Brianne Doura Schawohl.

Commissioners frustrated over sportsbooks refusing to participate

The commissioners expressed frustration with the sportsbook operators for declining to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said that it would be difficult to move the conversation forward without more concrete information and data from the primary sports betting stakeholders involved. 

At the conclusion of the 80-minute discussion, commissioner Brad Hill conveyed his sentiments concerning the sportsbook operators’ failure to appear.

“Although the conversation was started today, it really didn’t give us the starting point that I hoped we would get. I feel like . . . there was a lot more information that we could’ve and should’ve gotten and didn’t get. It was very disappointing to me.”

The idea for the MGC to address bet limiting stemmed from a public comment in July of last year. A Massachusetts resident raised the issue after having their wagering amounts limited. Since the start of this year, the commission has been gathering information related to the issue. The MGC has made no concrete proposals. However, commissioners may consider instituting future bet-limiting regulations, which would be a first in the U.S.

MGC wants to discuss ramifications of banning betting limits

The six sportsbook operators, as well as representatives for the retail sportsbooks at Massachusetts’ three casinos, did previously provide information to the MGC about their house rules regarding betting limits. Each said it was in their terms and conditions that the sportsbook could restrict betting amounts at their discretion. Massachusetts gaming law states that sports wagering operators may establish their own betting limits. Operators may also limit a player’s wager “for reasons considered necessary or appropriate.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s roundtable, the commission sent the operators the following questions: 

  • Please detail how and why a patron may be limited on your platform, including how you may limit patrons on an individual basis.
  • Please explain the experience of a patron once they become limited.
  • What are the responsible gaming implications if patron limits are more heavily regulated?
  • What would be the impacts to the industry if allowing limits on individual patrons was prohibited or limited by law or regulation?
  • What are other jurisdictions and/or other sportsbooks doing?

ESPN Bet representative says betting limit bans would restrict revenue

In a letter declining the roundtable invitation, PENN Entertainment’s deputy chief compliance officer, Samantha Haggerty, addressed the topics of discussion. PENN operates the ESPN Bet online sportsbook, as well as the Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts.

Haggerty said PENN gambling entities in the Commonwealth may limit a customer’s wagering for a variety of reasons. This includes if they appear to be “taking advantage of or manipulating the sportsbook or abusing promotional play.” She said ESPN Bet users receive an on-screen message when their bet amount exceeds their approved limits. If a player’s limitations stem from responsible gaming concerns, PENN conducts “patron affordability and responsible gaming reviews.”

As to how regulations prohibiting bet limits on individual patrons would impact the industry, Haggerty said such rules would reshape Massachusetts sports betting. Banning bet limits would ultimately reduce sportsbook revenue, leading to fewer betting options for customers, Haggerty said:

“A law or regulation prohibiting or limiting operators’ ability to allow limits would lead to a large reduction in the amount of wager opportunities offered, reduced limits for all patrons (rather than just individual patrons who are manipulating or abusing the system), less sports and leagues available to wager on, and potentially, a reduction in available operators entirely. The typical, recreational bettor would experience a vast reduction in betting options if such a law or regulation were put into place. The result would be a less competitive product offering for the customer and reduced revenues for the Commonwealth.”

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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