Massachusetts residents won’t be able to bet on NCAA basketball’s Wooden Award, the next Heisman Trophy winner, or any other collegiate postseason awards, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission determined Tuesday morning.
With an eye toward protecting college athletes from pressure from gamblers, the commission decided to omit those types of awards from its bet menu, but potentially reconsider the issue in the future. The MGC last month authorized betting on postseason awards in the pro ranks, such as for NFL MVP.
“We can revisit this,” Commissioner Brad Hill commented about the collegiate level. “We may have a change of mind in the future.”
The decision came as the MGC begins to navigate how to handle wagering on the NCAA and conference championship tournaments. The state’s law prohibits wagering on Massachusetts college teams unless they are playing in a tournament that involves at least four teams. That means there is no wagering allowed on Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, or Massachusetts, among others, during the regular season.
Quirky law a challenge
In handling a list of questions Tuesday, the commission confirmed that bets could not be placed on any Massachusetts team before they’re involved in tournaments. Should a Massachusetts team qualify for March Madness, the NAIA tourney, or any other postseason tournament, betting on those teams would be possible as soon as the team is selected and operators begin offering wagers.
Bets will not be accepted ahead of conference tournaments, Selection Sunday, and/or until a Massachusetts team has a slot in a tournament. In addition, staff did make clear that any postseason tournaments taking place in Massachusetts will be available for wagering. No March Madness sites are in Massachusetts this year, however, for either the men’s or women’s tournament.
No Massachusetts men’s college basketball team presently appears poised to qualify for March Madness, which begins March 14 with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. But that could change with an upset by a state school in the ACC (Boston College is sitting last in the East Division), America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, Ivy League, Northeast Conference, or Patriot League conference championships.
The MGC has plans to launch 11 digital operators March 10, in the middle of many conference championships ahead of the NCAA Tournament. It launched three retail sportsbooks, one at each of the state’s casinos, on Jan. 31.
In the runup to the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts, some of the largest sports betting companies in the country spent hundreds of thousands on Beacon Hill-focus lobbying firms. Read more here, including about donations to key Dems. #mapoli https://t.co/uZZzZZ0Z2M
— Chris Van Buskirk (@byChrisVan) February 14, 2023
Bet menu tricky to navigate
Operators have already run into some trouble with the provisions concerning Massachusetts schools. The sportsbooks at Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino recently self-reported errors that enabled wagering on two Massachusetts college teams. Due to an error by Kambi staff, Merrimack College was entered into the system as a Florida-based school, and wagers on it were possible for seven hours at the Barstool Sportsbook at Plainridge Park.
At Encore, moneyline wagers were available on a Boston College women’s basketball game on Feb. 2 for five hours at the WynnBET sportsbook.
Both entities told the commission that new practices were in place to avoid future violations. The commission appeared to be leaning toward holding adjudicatory hearings for both to determine fines, but it did not vote on that.
Massachusetts officials see only dollar signs as sports betting explodes https://t.co/Dv67t1GuwT
— candy (@luv2horses) February 11, 2023
In addition, the MGC received word from BetMGM that it also violated the bet menu by mistakenly offering wagering on the Harvard-Yale and Harvard-Brown men’s basketball games Feb. 3 and 4, and the Investigations Enforcement Bureau has opened a review.
The MGC also got an update on geofencing for mobile platforms, and Executive Director Karen Wells shared that while the state will be geofenced, there will be additional fencing around the state’s two Indian reservations. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (Cape Cod) and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah (Martha’s Vineyard) are both federally recognized sovereign nations.
Wells also shared that because the state’s boundary extends three miles into the Atlantic Ocean, literal “offshore wagering” would be legal, meaning those on boats would be able to place digital bets.