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After questions, Healey OK’s Fenway’s new cashless payment system

A 1978 state law requires retailers to accept “legal tender,” but Red Sox say Mastercard kiosks are a workaround.

Attorney General Maura HealeyDrew Angerer/Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty

A day after questioning the legality of the new cashless payment system at Fenway Park, Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday gave it the all clear.

Fans at Fenway this season are required to use cards or touchless payment methods to purchase food, beverages, and merchandise throughout the park. People who come to a game with cash to spend will first have to load it onto a Mastercard at one of three Cash-2-Card exchange kiosks.

During an “Ask the AG” appearance on GBH Radio Monday, a listener e-mailed in to ask Healey if Fenway could legally forbid cash — a question that has come up in several forums since the Sox announced the new policy ahead of their home opener earlier this month.

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According to a law passed by the legislature in 1978, all retailers in Massachusetts are required to accept “legal tender when offered as payment by the buyer.”

“No retail establishment offering goods and services for sale shall discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit by a buyer in order to purchase such goods and services,” it reads.

This was Healey’s response on Monday.

“Well, it’s something that I read about recently happening over at Fenway, and I know it’s a problem because not everybody has moved to plastic,” she said on GBH. “Now Fenway’s got a system that they’re putting cash on cards, but the question is whether that really is equitable and fair to people, so it’s something that my office is currently looking at and engaging with them on, because we want to make sure that people have an ability to use cash at the park.”

But by Tuesday morning, apparently, that review was complete.

When asked again by reporters at the National Cyber Crime Conference in Norwood, Healey said she had a conversation with the Red Sox and came away persuaded they were following the law. So she gave them to go-ahead to “play ball” when it comes to plastic-only payments.

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“I don’t think this a big deal,” she said. “As long as there are systems that allow for the use of cash through these cards, that’s going to — we think — work out.”

The Red Sox’ position is that the kiosk system is a viable workaround to the state rule, since it offers an alternative for fans who arrive with cash. They can simply put that cash on a debit card for use at the game. Peter Nesbit, the senior vice president of ballpark operations at Fenway, told the Globe a few weeks ago he was confident that would pass muster with the state. (Red Sox principal owner John Henry also owns The Boston Globe.)

There have been efforts to amend the 1978 law, as cashless payment has grown more and more common. Last legislative session, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and House Minority Leader Brad Jones filed bills to repeal the section about “cash discrimination.” Neither bill advanced.

The Boston Red Sox have made transactions at Fenway Park cashless this season. A fan (left) is using an app and then his credit card as he checks out at a concession stand. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

And Fenway is not the first local stadium to enact such a system. Both Gillette Stadium and TD Garden implemented similar cashless concession systems last year.


Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.