Market goes live Jan. 31

Massachusetts introduces new sports betting-specific Voluntary Self-Exclusion list ahead of launch

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein
Reading time 2:49 min

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced Friday that, ahead of the launch of sports wagering in the Commonwealth on January 31, it has expanded options to fight problem gambling through the establishment of a Voluntary Self-Exclusion list specifically for sports betting.

The Commission stated that, since the first casino in Massachusetts opened in 2015, more than 1,700 people have enrolled in a VSE program for casino gambling. Today, there are 1,329 individuals included in that list. 

These programs are designed to allow those who want to regain control a means to restrict their access to gambling for a pre-determined amount of time. With the introduction of sports wagering, individuals will have the option to self-exclude from casino gaming floors, retail and digital sportsbooks, or both. 

Those interested in becoming part of the list are able to enroll over the phone or online, as well as in-person at a GameSense Info center at Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield or Encore Boston Harbor. Those currently on the casino VSE list will remain so and will continue to be excluded from the casino floor, including the soon-to-be-opened sportsbooks.

According to a 2022 study conducted by researchers at UMass Amherst, an estimated 13-20% of Massachusetts adults have engaged in sports betting ahead of the law that legalized sports wagering in the Commonwealth. The report further found evidence that the introduction of sports wagering and participation in sports gambling led to an increase in gambling harms, notes the regulator.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein commented: “VSE programs are proven to be a successful tool for those who need a break from gambling to manage their own play. In light of research we have at our disposal, the MGC and our licensees are committed to offering these types of programs and a range of other resources to help gamblers in the Commonwealth.” 

The regulator explained that an early evaluation of the VSE program in Massachusetts found that enrollees reported significant improvements in gambling problems, mental health and relationships quality six months after signing up. 

Mark Vander Linden, MGC Director of Research and Responsible Gaming, explained: “While VSE is one way to help people struggling with a gambling problem, we highly recommend they also seek treatment for a qualified clinician.” The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline (800-327-5050) provides callers with information about treatment and other resources.

Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, also stated: “Massachusetts has provided innovation and leadership in the realms of problem and responsible gambling. This early and comprehensive approach to VSE continues in that tradition. We hope that anyone in need of a conversation and some help with minimizing the impact gambling has on their life will consider this evidence-based program.”

The news comes days after the regulator approved the list of allowable wagers and leagues on which gambling is permitted. The approved catalog includes bets allowed under state law, including single-game bets, parlays, teasers, moneyline bets, totals, in-game and in-play wagering, exchange betting, and props.

Operators also submitted requests to the Gaming Commission, which were mostly approved, including point-spread wagering, futures, cashouts, and each-way wagering. And while regulators mostly agreed on the wagering proposed, they did however show reservations about certain bets and sports.

As a result, the MGC moved to approve expected sports and leagues such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLB, and NHL, among many others, while shooting down some less obvious choices. When the industry kicks off, bettors won’t be able to place wagers in competitions including virtual events and esports, jai alai, chess, cornhole, the summer and winter Olympics, and sports overseen by Belorussian or Russian bodies.

In-person betting is scheduled to begin on Jan. 31 at the three facilities that secured Category 1 licenses: Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor. Mobile betting will follow in early March, with approved mobile licenses for Bally's Interactive, FanDuel, Betr, DraftKings, Digital Gaming and PointsBet Massachusetts.

The market will also eventually include Raynham Park, which will offer sports betting when it opens in the spring. Caesars Sportsbook announced last week a deal to open a large betting facility at the former racetrack. Given it won't be ready until summer, a temporary betting parlor will open in the meantime.

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