Massachusetts Regulators Question Wager Limits Imposed By Sportsbooks

April 2, 2024
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After receiving several public inquiries, the topic of sports-betting wager limits has come to the attention of gaming regulators in Massachusetts, even as one regulator questioned if the practice was even an issue.
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After receiving several public inquiries, the topic of sports betting wager limits has come to the attention of gaming regulators in Massachusetts, even as one regulator questioned if the practice was an issue.

Andrew Steffen, sports wagering operations manager with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), confirmed state gaming regulations allow sports-betting operators to limit the amount customers wager at any time.

“These limits are determined by the sportsbook operators themselves,” Steffen told the commission on Thursday (March 28). “Sportsbooks set limits for risk management and more importantly to preserve the integrity of the sporting event taking place.”

Steffen added that limited wagers help maintain fair competition and prevent undue influence of bets on the outcome of games by preventing excessively large best or bets looking to take advantage of certain situations. 

Limits are also determined on a per-customer basis. 

“An example of a wager limitation, maybe you try to place a $1,000 wager, if you are a limited patron, and the sportsbook will flag it immediately and say you can only bet $20 with the particular wager,” he said.

Steffen reminded commissioners that house wagering rules address minimum and maximum wagers, and the rules are approved by the commission prior to launch.

Despite being reassured that wager limits are allowed by Massachusetts sports-betting regulations, not every commissioner was happy with the current situation.

“What struck me is this is sort of the beginning of a conversation because it seems to me that the regulation and their house rules put a tremendous amount of discretion in their hands,” said commissioner Eileen O’Brien.

“There is a business reason for some of it like laying off making sure you are balancing what you are putting out there, but there is a deeper issue here in terms of individual patrons and I think we have all talked about that in particular in light of some of the coverage that had been out there recently.”

O’Brien noted that the coverage has centered around federal lawmakers interested in VIP hosts and how sports-betting operators extend credit.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, sent letters last month to eight online gaming companies, including BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings, to demand they stop leveraging data to target problem gamblers with promotions and advertisements.

“I urge you to leverage the data you collect to identify problem gamblers and proactively provide these individuals with services, such as a confidential advisor, to help them access treatment,” Blumenthal wrote.

O’Brien said house rules “very vaguely talk about management in their sole discretion.” She noted that every mobile operator in Massachusetts received a letter from Blumenthal's office and their responses should be shared with the commission.

“Why are they making those determinations because I think that is critical to whether we need to amend this regulation,” O’Brien said. “This is just the beginning of our conversation.”

Jordan Maynard, interim MGC chair, agreed with O’Brien, saying that if they are “turning off a winning wager, are [they] turning off a losing wager.”

Commissioner Nakisha Skinner admitted that it was at the discretion of the operator, but wondered if there was a way for patrons to understand what might get them limited.

“I think that our regulation, yes requires the house rules to speak to minimum and maximum wagers but I just don’t think that goes far enough in addressing some of the concerns and complaints that we’ve heard,” Skinner said.

“So the other question is,” Skinner said, “how much of an issue is this … because from this week, I think it was just that one prior comment, might have been two, but really how big of a problem is this and can we find that sweet sport so that the sports-betting operator’s business model is protected [and] the consumer is protected.”

The commission has not confirmed a date on when it will discuss the issue but agreed to host a public roundtable and an executive session with the state’s seven operators before deciding whether to amend the state regulations regarding limits.

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