All 10 state sportsbooks withdraw from MGC roundtable on betting limits

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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) held a much-anticipated public roundtable on Tuesday to demand more transparency from sportsbooks about how, when and why they set betting limits on certain customers.

“I have learned that 10 active operators in the Commonwealth, after initially signaling that they would attend and actively participate in this public roundtable, have decided not to do so,” said Jordan Maynard, Acting President of the MGC.

Maynard said the sportsbook instead requested a private executive session instead of a public roundtable “because they felt some information would be too sensitive to reveal in public.” The MGC is, however, required by Massachusetts law to hold its meetings in an open forum, except in certain special circumstances.

According to the MGC, sports betting operators, including BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, Fanatics and PENN Entertainment (ESPN BET), informed the commission of their decision to withdraw within 72 hours of the public meeting. Only one sports betting operator not yet in the state, Bally Bet, sent a representative. Bally Bet will not be available in Massachusetts until June.

In addition to Bally representative Justin Black, present at the meeting were members of the commission, their legal counsel, a professional gambler representing the perspective of sports betting customers and two consultants from the gaming industry.

After an hour of conversation, the commissioners expressed their frustration at the futility of holding the round table without the presence of the operators.

“This was not a good use of our time today, given that our key stakeholders were not included in the discussion,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said. “I hope we can work to change that in the future.”

Commissioner Brad Hill said he felt “anger” that he “wasn’t able to get a lot more information than I thought I could get today to start this conversation.”

Athleticism has contacted BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings for comment. BetMGM directed us to their public statements on the matter and DraftKings did not respond at the time of publication.

A FanDuel spokesperson shared the following, which it also shared with MGC: “We do not believe we can have a meaningful discussion in a public forum about our wagering limits and risk management processes. Risk management, similar to trading (i.e. setting prices) is an essential part of our business and value proposition as a sportsbook, and it is essential for FanDuel to maintain the confidentiality of our proprietary systems. We respectfully request the opportunity to meet privately in executive session to discuss these issues and provide the level of information necessary to fully understand our approach.

So what was the meeting about? The issue of player limits is a matter of transparency. Massachusetts sportsbooks are legally allowed to set limits for individual customers. But the MGC is concerned about the lack of clarity or communication about when and why a player can be restricted – and that sportsbooks limit players simply because they win.

“The MGC has been made aware of consumer reports and media coverage that some operators are limiting bettors who win consistently,” Maynard said. “Some claim they did not violate house rules, state laws or regulations, or other permitted acts when restricted.”

In short: are there any customers who bet honestly and are limited? The MGC’s motivation behind this question is whether these betting limits will drive customers into illegal markets. “If we have operators limiting customers who are following the rules, that limitation will naturally incentivize those players to turn to the illegal market,” Maynard said.

The commission aimed to get a response from sports betting operators five guiding questions on the issue of player limits:

  1. Please detail how and why a contributor can be limited on your platform, including how you can limit contributors on an individual basis.
  2. Please explain a customer’s experience once it becomes limited.
  3. What will be the implications of responsible gaming if customer limits are more strictly regulated?
  4. What would be the impacts on the industry if allowing limits for individual customers were prohibited or limited by law or regulation?
  5. What are other jurisdictions and/or other sports bets doing?

Jack Andrews, professional gambler and member of the Unabated sports betting company, gave the sports bettors’ perspective. He explained that sportsbooks often don’t communicate to players that they have been restricted, why they are restricted and how long the ban will last. Unlike land-based casinos, where a player may be limited to one table but not all games, sportsbooks set limits that are “pervasive across the board.”

“The house has the advantage, it’s gambling, but a lot of users feel like things don’t go both ways,” Andrews said. “Limitation is just one example of that.”

The commission received dozens of stories of sports betting users on similar experiences. In the words of Commissioner Skinner, the MGC considers this to be a matter of “fundamental fairness”.

Problem gambling consultant Brianne Doura-Schawohl shared a case from Washington, DC, where a bookmaker claimed a betting limit was set due to problem gambling, but this turned out to be false.

“This is the first time limited people have felt like they’re being heard,” said Dustin Gouker of Closing Line Consulting.

The commission ended with a promise to continue the conversation – with the sports betting operators involved.

“For me, this is day one of this conversation,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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