More than 400,000 in Massachusetts signed up for mobile sports betting accounts after launch
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 14, 2023 (State House News Service) - More than 400,000 mobile sports betting accounts were active during the first three days the activity was available in Massachusetts and more than 8 million transactions took place, making Massachusetts the fifth busiest mobile betting state in the country last weekend.
GeoComply, a vendor that provides the Gaming Commission with geolocation and fraud detection services, said Tuesday that it recorded 406,437 unique player accounts and 8.1 million "geolocation transactions" last weekend across the six mobile operators that went live in the Bay State on Friday. In-person betting began at the end of January, but mobile betting is expected to quickly become the dominant method of sports wagering here.
The company said it also prevented more than 5,000 transactions from "devices or accounts with a known history of fraud, saving its customers tens of thousands of dollars."
"Today, one of the biggest challenges facing operators is onboarding genuine players and keeping out fraudsters," Lindsay Slader, GeoComply's senior vice president of compliance, said. "With the gold standard of geolocation in place and an experienced team of experts, we are uniquely positioned to lead the fight against fraud in all its forms."
Only New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York recorded more sports betting activity over the weekend, GeoComply said, though it noted that the data it included in a press release "does not purport to be definitive or represent the entire market in Massachusetts or any other jurisdictions but is intended to provide general insights into relevant market dynamics."
GeoComply is also providing the Mass. Gaming Commission with video and tech equipment valued at nearly $1,300 so the commission can install a screen displaying sports betting geolocation data in real time in the public lobby of its downtown Boston headquarters.
Commission Executive Director Karen Wells said last week that the display "will show where all the -- live and in real time -- bets are being placed on mobile sports wagering, phones and other devices ... so that staff, commissioners and the public who will be coming into public meetings at some point in the near future can see the operation."
Hearings On Illegal Bets
Commissioners got a sense Tuesday morning, during the first formal hearing on the series of illegal collegiate bets accepted at in-person sportsbooks last month, of how incidents like that would be handled differently if they happen in the mobile betting universe.
The first of two hearings focused on Encore Boston Harbor's acceptance of a wager on a Boston College women's basketball game against Notre Dame on Feb. 2. The one wager that the casino allowed to be placed was part of a five-game parlay with $70 wagered in total, according to commission investigators. The bettor made the bet at a self-serve kiosk and Encore voided the BC leg of that parlay wager before the ticket was cashed.
But Encore wasn't able to tell the bettor that they would not be paid out for the voided portion of their parlay until they came in the next day to cash out, Encore Senior Vice President and General Counsel Jacqui Krum said, because they didn't know who the bettor was. But if the bet had been placed on the WynnBet mobile app or if the customer used a Wynn rewards card, the bettor could be alerted as soon as the sportsbook became aware that it allowed a prohibited bet.
"What we would do is we would contact the customer and advise that the wager is a prohibited wager, and under our terms and conditions and terms of service that we're not allowed to offer the wager," Jennifer Roberts, general counsel for WynnBet, said in response to commission questions. "That that piece of the parlay would have been voided ... but the parlay ticket could continue with the remaining legs."
Massachusetts' betting law allows wagers on contests involving a Massachusetts school only if the contest is part of a tournament that includes at least four teams.
The Gaming Commission's afternoon hearing was specific to Plainridge Park Casino's Feb. 2 acceptance of bets on a Merrimack College men's basketball game against Long Island University. Chief Enforcement Counsel Heather Hall said the event was open for action because the sportsbook's vendor Kambi "mistakenly assigned the participant school state for Merrimack College as Florida instead of Massachusetts."
There were 33 bets placed on the game with a total of $6,848 put on the line. Bettors won $4,270 based on those wagers, Hall said. Almost all of the bets on the Merrimack game were placed at Plainridge's betting kiosks, but four were placed at the betting counter with a "writer" or teller. And it was one of those writers who flagged the issue for Plainridge management.
The Gaming Commission made no decisions Tuesday and commissioners were taking the afternoon to deliberate in private. The commission's decisions will be handed down in writing, Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said. She said the options for the commission in each case include issuing a civil administrative penalty, imposing conditions on the operator's license, suspending the license, revoking the license, reprimanding the licensee "and or" assessing a fine against the operator.
How the Gaming Commission addresses these violations could set a standard for the new industry going forward in Massachusetts, and regulators have additional hearings scheduled on similar violations at MGM Springfield and another instance of illegal collegiate wagering at Encore.
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