Massachusetts To Allow Mobile Sports Betting From Boats Off Coast

BOSTON (State House News Service) — With mobile sports betting on track to begin in Massachusetts on March 10, the Gaming Commission recently got its legal team, lawyers from another firm and an expert on tribal law together to determine exactly where the boundaries of Massachusetts are so they can tell sportsbooks precisely where mobile bettors are allowed to wager from.

State law requires that all sports bets be placed by someone (or from a device) physically located in Massachusetts. With mobile betting on the horizon, Executive Director Karen Wells said this week that the Gaming Commission had been getting questions from operators about the official bounds of the Bay State so they can put up geofences to block out-of-state bets.

“Generally, the state border defines the area where people can bet on their phones or mobile apps. But there are two notable issues, I just wanted to make the commission aware,” Wells said Tuesday.

For one thing, Massachusetts bettors will not have to be on land to place a wager. Wells said that the state border “for geolocation purposes” extends three miles into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast. “And yes, people in their boats can bet on their phones if they’re in the water,” she said.

Todd Grossman, the commission’s top lawyer, said the three-mile (not three nautical miles) extension comes from the 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case United States vs. Maine. That case, according to Cornell Law School, “concluded that the States held interests in the seabeds only to a distance of three geographical miles from their respective coastlines, but did not fix the precise coastline of any of the States.”

The commission also identified sovereign tribal land of the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes, which Wells said “needs to be geofenced off for purposes of sports wagering and mobile sports wagering…and we honor the sovereignty of the tribe in this respect.” The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has land in Mashpee and Taunton, and the Aquinnah tribe has land on Martha’s Vineyard.

“We are ready to go. We’ll be in contact with some last-minute details on information to the geolocation provider, but I expect we’ll be ready to go,” Wells said. “If there are any issues, we’ll come back before the commission…but we expect that this part of the process in launching sports wagering should be all set to go.”