Massachusetts Sports Betting Report Recommends In-Game Wagering Ban

A “snapshot” report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) included a recommendation to ban in-game wagering when sports betting goes live in the commonwealth.

An aerial view of Fenway Park and Kenmore Square in Boston at sunset. A report released Thursday recommended to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that it should prohibit in-game betting as part of its sports betting regulations. (Image: rabbit75_fot/Adobe Stock Images)

In-game wagering, also known as microbetting, is the opportunity to bet on an upcoming outcome within the event. Examples include wagering on whether a baseball team scores a run in an inning or a batter gets a hit in his at-bat. It’s a growing segment of the US sports betting industry, with startups like Betr and nVenue receiving millions of dollars from investors to help them launch their products.

However, the researchers who conducted the report for the MGC said they found that “in play sports betting… is disproportionately utilized by problem gamblers.”

Researchers also recommended that any operator licensed in the state should be required to give player data to the commission and “cooperate with researchers.” They also called for stipulating responsible gambling features on all web and mobile sites and for controls on marketing, including celebrity endorsements.

“Authors provided policy recommendations intended to optimize the economic and social benefits of sports betting in (Massachusetts) while minimizing economic and social harm,” the report stated.

The study was conducted by Rachel A. Volberg, Martha Zorn, and Valerie Evans at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s School of Public Health & Health Sciences and Robert J. Williams, a health sciences faculty member at the University of Lethbridge in Canada. They are all members of the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team, which receives funding from the MGC.

RG Roundtable Set for Tuesday

On Friday, the MGC announced it would hold a public meeting to discuss responsible gaming practices related to sports betting. The public meeting will include a roundtable discussion around such topics as voluntary self-exclusion, steps necessary to prevent underage betting, employee training, and other considerations.

It’s likely the SEIGMA report and its recommendations will be discussed during the session.

Those slated to participate in the discussion are Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow for responsible gaming at UNLV; Brianne Doura-Schawohl, founder and CEO of Doura-Schawohl Consulting; Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling; Marlene Warner, executive director at the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health; Michael Wohl, a psychology professor at Carleton University; Cait DeBaun, vice president of strategic communications and responsibility at the American Gaming Association; and Elizabeth Lanza, with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s office of compulsive and problem gambling.

About Massachusetts Sports Betting

Massachusetts formally passed its sports betting law last month after legislative leaders finally reached an agreement in the final hours of the session. The compromise bill between House and Senate members included a partial ban on betting on in-state college sports teams. While betting on teams like Boston College and UMass will not be allowed in regular season games, sportsbooks will be allowed to offer markets on in-state teams for postseason play.

The law allows for the state’s casinos to offer in-person sports betting and for each one to partner with up to two online sports betting applications. It gives racetracks and simulcasting facilities the opportunity to partner with an app. Further, it also allows for seven online operators that are not tied to either a casino, racetrack, or simulcasting facility.

Earlier this month, the MGC announced that 42 companies submitted a notice of intent to apply for a sports betting license. The full list can be found here, but one of the companies that submitted was Betr.

It’s uncertain when sports betting will start in Massachusetts. Commissioner Bradford Hill, at a Thursday MGC meeting, dismissed rumors of a retail launch within three weeks that had been broadcast recently on Toucher and Rich, a popular Boston sports radio show.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen,” Hill said. “It was frustrating because of the hundreds of thousands of people that listen to that show and think that they might be able to place a bet here in Massachusetts (soon)… Other states who have done this, it has taken a while for them to be able to put regulations together.”

Hill pointed out that it’s taken some states a couple of years to get those regulations in place, but he does not expect it to take that long in the Bay State.

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