Massachusetts Delays First Retail Sports Betting License

Written By David Fletcher on December 7, 2022Last Updated on December 13, 2022
Sports betting neighbor states

Massachusetts is slowly moving forward with the process of getting sports betting off the ground. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is reviewing 15 applications and has delayed the vote for the first retail sports betting license. Despite criticisms for dragging their feet, the latest delay seems justified and is playing out on the national stage thanks to an in-depth New York Times article. 

Relationship Between PENN Sports Interactive And Barstool Sports

The MGC recently decided to delay the vote on granting Plainridge Park Casino’s retail sports betting application until next week. The decision was in part due to the casino being owned and operated by PENN Sports Interactive (PSI). PSI has a close relationship with Barstool Sports, which is the source of the commission’s cause for pause in granting the sports betting license at this time.

Barstool Sports is a sports and pop culture digital media company. Recently, the New York Times recently published an article about the tactics and behavior of Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports in the gaming industry. The article describes Portnoy as a “degenerate gambler” and claims the company’s advertising tactics target college students and younger. This is a problem because it directly contradicts the stance the Gaming Commission has taken, which is to minimize advertising to individuals 21 years old or younger.

“Industry watchdogs say that Mr. Portnoy, perhaps more than anyone else in the United States, is encouraging recklessness among his legions of followers. Most are young men, a group that researchers have found is at especially high risk of problem gaming,” Emily Steel wrote in the Nov. 20 New York Times article.

The MGC has put a heavy emphasis on the importance of preventing underage sports gambling, and they seem to be trying to get ahead of any possible issues.

Related news: Massachusetts To Be Strict On Underage Sports Gambling

The Relationship’s Impact On Sports Betting License

PSI is now part-owner of Barstool Sports and leans heavily on its relationship with the company that has millions of young followers. During the public meeting in which the commission decided to delay the vote, more about the depth of the relationship was brought to light. 

A Plainridge Park representative shared plans for a Barstool Sportsbook branded retail sports betting space in the casino — if granted a retail sports betting license — and identified Barstool Sportsbook as an online sports betting partner when it becomes legal. The magnitude of this relationship, combined with the revelations from the New York Times article, was enough for the commission to pause and reconvene at a later date.

“PENN Entertainment and Plainridge Park Casino have hitched themselves to the Barstool Sports brand,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said. “This raises concerns over the integrity elements involved in the licensure process. To me, not delving into what that means in terms of suitability, honesty, and integrity of the applicant, I think it bears a discussion by this commission,” O’Brien said.

As of now, retail sports betting in Massachusetts could begin in January 2023, with mobile betting apps following in late February of early March. Approval for major sportsbooks is almost a given. The Plainridge Park Casino, however, doesn’t quite fit that bill. Whether it’s approved or not for its license will be something to monitor going forward. 

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David Fletcher

David Fletcher is a Staff Writer for Play MA. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Stephen F. Austin State University and is currently employed full-time in a senior corporate communications role for a top 20 accounting firm. He also has nearly a decade of experience covering high school sports and local news for multiple small daily newspapers, and professional and collegiate sports in the Houston area for a start-up sports reporting organization. He is a big fan of the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, and, unfortunately, according to him, the Houston Texans. He enjoys bringing his love of sports and writing to the gaming industry to provide insight into quality sports bets.

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