Sports betting in Massachusetts looks to have hit an obstacle as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has raised concerns over the state’s first license application.
The Commission met on Tuesday to discuss the first application for a casino-based sports betting license from the three already received during the last month. That first application was made by Plainridge Park Casino which had proposed to start accepting bets as early as late January. However, when it was discovered that the sports betting operator partnering on this venture was Penn Entertainment, the Commission raised its concerns.
Those concerns relate to Penn Entertainment’s controlling interest in Barstool Sports. Recent reports in the New York Times have revealed that Barstool founder Dave Portnoy has had issues in the past with problem gambling. The Commission is concerned that his presence in advertising will have an adverse effect on a young audience.
At the meeting, Gaming Commission Chair Kathy Judd-Stein said:
“We’re at a crossroads right now because of the information that is presented to us.
None of the concerns we’re raising today are private in nature, you recognized them, Penn recognized them, and so that’s why I say we’re at a crossroads right now.”
Commissioner Nakina Skinner added:
“Barstool Sports is the elephant in the room.”
Stein noted that the Times’s reference to Portnoy’s visit to Knoxville in Tennessee for a college football game was a particularly concerning incident. Portnoy announced publicly at the game that he had put ‘100 grand on Georgia’.
“I am focused on, and there are other issues and we know that, but I, like Commissioner (Eileen) O’Brien, am focused on not just the play at universities, but just the messaging around what I perceive to be the glorification of excessive gambling. I could be convinced, as I said, with data. How do we reconcile that with our programs?”
The Commission also stated that Penn Entertainment, when purchasing Barstool, disclosed that their association with the company and Portnoy could negatively impact their ability to do business.
Commissioners ended the meeting in executive session with the license application still unapproved.
This summer Gov. Charlie Baker proposed allowing the launch of legal sports betting in MA. Since then, the Gaming Commission has been busy drafting regulations and accepting applications from interested parties.