MGC Holds Roundtable On Limiting Sports Bettors; Top Sportsbooks Decline To Participate

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Written By Giovanni Shorter | Last Updated
Massachusetts Sportsbooks Players Limiting

On Tuesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) met to discuss the manner in which sportsbooks limit players. Sportsbooks limiting players to small maximum bet sizes is a common practice in the industry, and the commission was looking for clarity on the criteria. What causes a player to be limited at sportsbooks? And will this meeting affect how sportsbooks limit players going forward?

Sportsbooks Did Not Attend

All of the leading sports betting operators elected not to participate in the meeting. Operators requested a closed session with the MGC, but the commission denied the request. Why would sportsbooks elect not to participate in this discussion in a public forum?

The only sportsbook operator that joined in on the discussion was Bally’s Interactive. Bally’s holds Massachusetts sportsbook license but is not currently operating in the state. Its representative also deferred to his vendor, Kambi, when asked about limiting players.

None of the active Massachusetts betting operators attended the discussion.

What Is The Criteria For Limiting Players?

During the discussion, the MGC raised questions on the criteria sportsbooks use when limiting players. The consensus among commissioners was that sportsbooks limit players who win too much or too often.

The practice of sportsbooks limiting players has been consistent in the industry. This was noted in the meeting by Sports Wagering Division Director Bruce Brand. Brand highlighted that Massachusetts casinos have limited players who have advantages. These include card counters at blackjack tables. Card counting is not illegal in Massachusetts, but casinos still limit those players.

However, what the MGC is seeing is that the player limitations are not just affecting players with advantages.

“The comments (submitted to the MGC by citizens) overwhelmingly indicated that regular patrons, individuals who casually or recreationally wager, are being limited simply for winning,” said Nakisha Skinner, Commissioner. “For me, that’s a much different conversation. It affects many more individuals and citizens of this commonwealth than the handful of sharps that might be gaming the system from the operators’ perspective. That, to me, raises questions of integrity and fairness.”

A Call For Transparency From Sportsbooks

What commissioners and bettors are aiming for is a better understanding of why players are being limited in sports betting. If there was a more clear understanding of what basis sportsbooks are choosing when limiting players, the betting public would be more understanding.

Jack Andrews, founder of Unabated, discussed being limited himself.

Going back to the casino analogy, Andrews compares how casinos treat players who seem to have an advantage. If they are doing too well at blackjack, a casino can limit them on blackjack but allow them to play freely in other games. With sports betting, it appears as though winning on anything limits you on everything.

“There is definitely a disconnect when players are limited to why they are limited,” said Andrews. “Operators tend to deny that they limit people due to winning … It really creates a not-so-great experience for any bettor.”

Another aspect that leads to frustration with the lack of transparency from sportsbooks is that sometimes, bettors just get lucky.

Disappointment In Lack of Sportsbook Participation

How do sportsbooks differentiate between a sharp bettor and a bettor who is on a lucky stretch? Unfortunately, since none of the Massachusetts operators joined the discussion, this remains a mystery.

“I have to admit, the discussion was not as meaningful as I had hoped it would be,” said Skinner. “This was not a good use of our time today, given that we didn’t have our primary stakeholders a part of the discussion. But I hope we can work to change that going forward. Because we do need to move this needle.”

Will sportsbooks be more open about their player-limiting policies? Or will the mystery continue to affect players?

Massachusetts has stated this is only the beginning of the discussion.