Massachusetts Casinos Explain How They Allowed Illegal College Sports Bets
In an adjudicatory hearing on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission heard testimony and examined evidence that Encore Boston Harbor was in noncompliance of state gaming regulations by accepting a wager on college sports involving in-state schools.
On Feb. 2, 2023, wagering was allowed briefly for a game between Boston College women’s basketball and Notre Dame. According to WynnBET, which operates the sportsbook at Boston Encore, only one bet was placed. That wager was voided before the tip-off of the BC game that evening.
In its favor, EBH self-reported the incident and explained that the wager was for $70 as part of a parlay, and placed at a betting kiosk.
How the illegal Encore Boston Harbor college bet happened
In the hearing, Jacqui Krum of WynnBET explained how the alleged MA sports betting incident occurred.
A staff member employed by GAN Sports “mistakenly permitted wagering on the event.” GAN had provided automatic blocks on any in-state sporting events, but neglected to do so for the women’s college basketball game of Feb. 2 due to a mistake on the name of the Massachusetts-based school.
GAN Sports provides technology to sportsbooks that helps their platforms manage data and sports wagering catalog information. A sports wagering catalog is a list of the events that the state permits. Massachusetts gaming law prohibits betting on events involving in-state colleges, except when they are competing in tournaments.
According to GAN, 24-48 hours before sports betting went live on Jan. 31, Massachusetts in-state college teams were blacklisted. As a result, WynnBET MA customers should never have seen a game involving Boston College women’s basketball.
GAN’s system blocked any game involving “Boston College.” But the Feb. 2 game was not blocked because GAN was not aware that the school could have more than one team name in the list of games. The school was listed as “Boston College Eagles” in the data feed for the Feb. 2 game against Notre Dame. That game data is provided by a company called Genius Sports.
How are things different moving forward?
GAN explained that going forward, games are not permitted automatically from the data feed of sporting events. Instead, all games are blocked, and individual games need to be “turned on” for sports betting by an employee of WynnBET at Encore Boston Harbor. As a result, GAN explained that “it’s highly unlikely” that this would occur again. According to GAN, the fix to the process occurred no later than Feb. 12.
The commission will convene in private to determine what, if any action, it will take against WynnBET. Its options include issuing a violation or notation of noncompliance, a monetary fine or temporary license suspension.
Encore Boston Harbor is one of three Massachusetts casinos. The other two, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino, also have retail sportsbooks.
Plainridge Park Casino accepted more than $6,000 on Merrimack college basketball
The MGC also reviewed alleged noncompliance by Plainridge Park Casino when it allowed betting on a prohibited event Feb. 2.
On that date, PPC accepted 33 bets on a men’s college basketball game between the Merrimack Warriors and Long Island University Sharks. Because Merrimack is located in-state, wagers are prohibited on such games.
Representatives of PPC explained that the error occurred because the state field in the data feed for Merrimack had been assigned as Florida instead of Massachusetts. That mistake allowed the game involving Merrimack, which is located in North Andover, to pass through the blacklist.
The sports data provider for PPC is Kambi, which was responsible for supplying the data feed with sporting events, schools and associated data. PPC revealed that the game was offered for approximately seven hours, and $6,848 in bets were placed. Customers won $4,270 on 33 bets placed on 27 tickets. Of those wagers, four were placed with cashiers, and the rest were made at betting kiosks.
Commissioner Brad Hill was distressed that some of the prohibited bets were placed at the cage, where sportsbook personnel actually accept wagers in person.
Citing the fact that the game occurred only days after sports betting was launched in the state, PPC explained that it has doubled their efforts for employee training. PPC further stated that it has reiterated its intention with employees to not accept wagers on any event if there is a question about validity.
“Both PENN Entertainment and PPC understand the importance of compliance. We understand we were not in compliance,” said Northscott Grounsell, General Manager at Plainridge Park Casino.
PPC added more layers of protection
Grounsell noted that, with assistance from Kambi, PPC corrected the error within 11 minutes and self-reported the mistake the day after the game when the mistake became evident. According to Grounsell, PPC is requiring a daily check with sign-off by management to make sure such a mistake doesn’t occur again.
A second layer of protection was created by making a blacklist for any in-state colleges not involved in a tournament of at least four teams. As a result, blacklisting of a game in the future will no longer rely on the state field in the data feed.
The “writer” at PPC who noticed the error was rewarded by PPC for reporting the noncompliance promptly. As a result of the incident, PPC has provided a list to all of its personnel and instructed staff to ensure that all bets are authorized.
The MGC has several actions it can take if it finds PPC was in noncompliance. The commission can impose a civil administrative penalty or suspend, amend or revoke PPC’s license.