- Legal States
Fiona Simmons January 24, 2023 3 min read
Players’ Association Asks to Protect MA Athletes from Harassment
The Massachusetts Gambling Commission was asked to protect athletes from harassment ahead of the launch of sports betting in the state
Massachusetts is set to launch its sports betting market in a week. This has raised the question of athlete safety as certain people fear that disgruntled bettors might target pro players and their families.
The Players’ Association Demands Action
As the concerns grow, the Players’ Association, a union representing the United States’ biggest sports leagues, asked Massachusetts’ Gaming Commission to take player safety in mind in its regulations.
The association said that it would be content with any measure that provides pros sports players with the necessary protections. It proposed solutions such as barring aggressive people from betting or stopping sports betting on a certain sport altogether.
This Monday, the issue was discussed in depth.
Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHL Players Association, noted that the sports industry is wholly dependent on players and must protect them. He said that the Players’ Association does not ask for funds, only for the Gaming Commission to make things safer and fairer.
Harassment by angry punters may vary in nature. Oftentimes, such people would send threats to a sports professional on social media after losing a big bet. Sometimes, however, they may go further and harass the player’s relatives or even assault them in real life. In 2018, for example, a fan threw a beer at Tyreek Hill during a Patriots game – an incident that is currently being provided as an argument for imposing extra regulations to ensure players’ safety.
David Foster from the National Basketball Players Association noted that more betting brings increased tension, anxiety and anger. Because of that, it is important to enforce discipline.
Extreme Harassment Is Rare but Safeguards Must Be Implemented
The Players’ Association added that extreme bettor behavior tends to be rare. Even so, it is important to have safeguards and the certainty that the Gaming Commission would intervene if needed.
Association representatives believe that the commission may have to cancel games only on very rare occasions that are more of an exception rather than a rule, if at all. Despite that, it is important to have certain safety measures to discourage unruly behavior. In addition, such measures may encourage athletes to speak up when they are being harassed.
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien believes that the most important thing is to ensure that sportsbooks are responsible and take a stance against unruly bettors. She added that she is happy that there is enough awareness of the problem to lead a productive discussion on it.
Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said that it is “paramount” to make sure that no bettor is in a position to intimidate sports players, league officials and their families. She believes that the commission should work on the regulation language and prioritize player safety. Judd-Stein noted that licensed sportsbooks are also going to be a part of these efforts.
The Gaming Commission has so far been inclined to agree with the Players’ Association’s proposals but is uncertain whether it can legally impose any of the proposed measures. Representatives promised to look into the matter and see if they can add anti-harassment measures to the local sports betting regulations