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Illegal sports bets placed at all three Massachusetts casinos

The betting windows at the MGM Springfield casino's sportsbook just prior to the launch of legal sports wagering in Massachusetts on January 31, 2023.
Paul Tuthill
The betting windows at the MGM Springfield casino's sportsbook just prior to the launch of legal sports wagering in Massachusetts on January 31, 2023.

Sportsbooks took bets on in-state college teams' games

The fledgling sports wagering industry in Massachusetts has already run afoul of the law.

The sportsbooks at all three of the state’s casinos have now reported violations of the Massachusetts sports betting law that prohibits wagering on in-state college teams with the exception of tournaments like March Madness.

Illegal bets that were placed at the Encore Boston Harbor casino and Plainridge Park casino were reported last week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Over the weekend, MGM Springfield disclosed to the regulators that it had taken bets on two Harvard University men’s basketball games.

Sports wagering launched at the state’s casinos with much fanfare just two weeks ago. Mobile betting is expected to begin next month.

After a 90-minute discussion about the violations at Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park, Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said full-blown adjudicatory hearings will be held to determine if fines or other penalties are warranted.

“Any noncompliance will be determined based on the facts before us during that hearing,” said Judd-Stein.

According to summaries prepared by the Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau, Plainridge Park accepted 33 bets on a Merrimack College-Long Island University basketball game played on February 2nd. It was discovered that Merrimack College had been mistakenly identified as a Florida-based school in the casino’s sports-betting software.

At Encore, a single bet was placed on a Boston College- Notre Dame women’s basketball game. This occurred, the investigators found, because women’s teams had not been included on the sportsbook’s list of prohibited bets.

At both casinos, the errors were discovered during internal reviews and steps have been taken prevent future violations, according to the operators.

“I’m pleased to see the two operators have self-reported and are taking it very seriously and they have instituted very significant measures because they realize it is a violation of statutory law,” said Judd-Stein.

A spokesperson for MGM Springfield referred a request for comment to BetMGM, the digital platform that operates the casino’s sportsbook, and there was no response in time for this report.

Under the regulations for sports wagering, the gaming commission has several options for how to proceed. Commissioner Brad Hill said formal hearings are warranted.

“ I agree with my fellow commissioner that because of the newness of this industry I want to be as involved as I can be,” he said.

The hearings are expected to be scheduled in the next two weeks.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.