The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is deliberating on whether to join the recent trend in sports betting regulation by sending cease-and-desist letters to Bovada, an offshore sportsbook. This move aligns with recent actions taken by regulators in Michigan and Connecticut to curb illegal online gambling activities.

During an agenda-setting meeting on Wednesday morning, the MGC discussed various topics, including the potential for issuing cease-and-desist letters to offshore and illegal sports betting operators. Commissioner Nakisha Skinner, who attended the North American Gaming Regulators Association meeting, introduced the idea, highlighting the ongoing discussions about the illegal online gambling market.

Skinner referred to the recent actions of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bovada for allegedly offering illegal online gambling services. Connecticut regulators are also preparing to take similar steps, according to Covers. “I wonder if it’s worthwhile to just have a discussion among the commissioners as to whether there are any steps we might want to take as a commission along those lines, just with the understanding that our hands are somewhat tied,” Skinner remarked. “But I think it’s worth the discussion. We may want to send a cease-and-desist letter of our own.”

Skinner suggested inviting Massachusetts’ attorney general to discuss the issue further and proposed adding the possibility of sending cease-and-desist letters to the MGC’s list of review items for future consideration. Interim MGC chair Jordan Maynard agreed, noting that the commission’s legal staff might already be exploring this issue. “I imagine there’s work going on,” Maynard said.

Part of a Broader Effort

The increased attention from the MGC and other state gambling regulators on the offshore and illegal online betting markets reflects a broader effort to curb these activities. Although their enforcement capabilities are limited, states are becoming more proactive in addressing illegal gambling to ensure the success of locally regulated sports betting markets.

One of the primary motivations behind the expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S. has been to channel illegal betting activities toward state-regulated operators. States are keen to protect this objective from being undermined by unregulated platforms. In the past, Massachusetts sports betting regulators utilized cease-and-desist letters to address daily fantasy contests that closely resembled event wagering. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office also sent similar letters to daily fantasy sports operators earlier this year, prompting changes within the state’s fantasy sports landscape.

Additionally, the MGC is contemplating the introduction of a “seal of approval” to inform residents about which online sports betting sites are legally sanctioned in the state. Skinner mentioned that some jurisdictions are already “holding their vendors accountable, making an inquiry as to whether they are doing business with these illegal markets.”

Bovada Under Fire in Michigan and Connecticut

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has indicated that it might shift its focus to offshore sports betting suppliers if Bovada fails to comply with its cease-and-desist letter, which gave Bovada a deadline to cease operations for Michigan residents. While Bovada has ceased operations in a few other states, there has been no indication of compliance in Michigan.

In parallel, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is preparing its cease-and-desist letter for Bovada, expected to be sent out within the next couple of weeks. Kaitlyn Krasselt, director of communications for the Department of Consumer Protection, explained, “We send out cease and desist letters regularly, as there are only three licensed operators in the state of Connecticut. It is not typical for us to send out a public notice every time we send a cease and desist. Typically, later in the summer just before sports betting ramps up again, we send out a reminder that there are only three legal operators in our state and reminding people the dangers of utilizing unlicensed/unregulated platforms to place wagers.”