Massachusetts Regulators Say BetMGM Violated Player Prop Ban

Posted on: February 9, 2024, 09:16h. 

Last updated on: February 9, 2024, 11:53h.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) was told this week by its Investigations and Enforcement Bureau that one of its prominent online sportsbooks violated state wagering regulations that prohibit player props.

BetMGM player prop Massachusetts
A BetMGM advertisement in Boston is pictured on an interactive outdoor digital display. BetMGM is accused of wrongly allowing college player props on its sportsbook in Massachusetts. (Image: Soofa)

Player props involve bets on an individual’s performance. An example would be if a running back will run for a certain number of yards during a game.

In Massachusetts, state gaming regulations prohibit collegiate player props. The stipulation is designed to protect student-athletes and limit the likelihood of college players being threatened or harassed by bettors unhappy with their performance.

MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau officials told the commissioners that a regular audit of BetMGM’s operations discovered that the sportsbook wrongly took at least 15K player prop bets involving college athletes. The action on the bets exceeded $200K.

The bulk of the bets were reportedly made during the 2023 college football season. It wasn’t disclosed how much money the book kept on the illegitimate handle.

Hearing Forthcoming

The five-member MGC voiced their displeasure in learning that one of the state’s sportsbook operators was seemingly unaware of a major regulation of the commonwealth’s sports betting industry.

Prop bets on students is a statutory violation here in Massachusetts. It’s a conversation that’s starting to happen across the nation as to whether it’s appropriate,” said MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein. “Massachusetts got this right. I know I’m personally interested in resolving this matter as quickly as possible for the protection of student-athletes.”

Judd-Stein’s comments were likely a reference to NCAA President Charlie Baker, who served as the governor of Massachusetts and signed the state’s sports betting law, calling for legal sports betting states to ban player props. Baker said in November that player props are “one of the parts I worry about the most” regarding sports gambling.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) recently came out in opposition to college player prop bets. He called on his state gaming regulatory commission to amend its rules to ban such wagers. Just six states, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, and Wyoming, along with Washington, D.C., allow college player props.

The MGC referred the BetMGM matter back to the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau for an adjudicatory hearing where BetMGM will be allowed to weigh in. Depending on the hearing’s outcome, the MGC will decide whether penalties are warranted, which could range from a financial fine to license revocation, though the odds of the latter happening are presumably long.

BetMGM is the retail and online sportsbook co-owned by MGM Resorts International. The company runs the sportsbook at MGM Springfield and leverages that brick-and-mortar relationship to take bets via the internet in Massachusetts.

Previous Violations

This isn’t the first time BetMGM incurred a regulatory mishap in Massachusetts.

Last summer, the MGC slapped the book with a $20K fine for allowing bets on Harvard men’s basketball games. Massachusetts bans bets on college sports involving state-based schools unless the game is part of a tournament involving a minimum of four teams.

BetMGM told state gaming commissioners that an employee had accidentally labeled Harvard as being in Connecticut. Bets on the Ivy League program were allowed for about 21 hours before other staff noticed the error.