If Barstool Can’t Lose, Can Anyone Win? | Sports Betting News Today | LSR Podcast 186
Controversy over a Barstool Sports celebrity promo draws the attention of Massachusetts regulators and the questions of the podcast crew. Plus, a study in states doing well at sports betting regulation (14:08) and why the headlines don’t tell the true story about Bally Sports and Bally Bet (18:21).
Matt Brown (00:09):
Hello and welcome to episode number 186 of the LSR Podcast. My name is Matt Brown, joined each and every week by the brightest minds in all of the gaming industry. With me, I have two of those in Dustin Gouker and Adam Candee. You can follow them on the Twitter machine absolutely free. Just smash the button @DustinGouker, @AdamCandee, two E’s, no Y. And if you hate yourself, you can follow me @MattBrownM2.
Not an incredibly busy week, so just going to hit on a couple of topics here and not leave you guys hanging. You know you want your LSR podcast each and every week. So we are going to make sure and deliver that. We’ll also do a little clarification on some of these lazy headlines that are going on out there in the Major League Baseball regional network stuff. We’ll talk about some Barstool news. Dustin, of course, would like to pontificate a little bit on that. But Adam, why don’t you kick us off with how things are going over in Massachusetts.
The attention of Massachusetts regulators
Adam Candee (01:04):
Well, most importantly, Matt, as you said, we don’t want to leave people without an episode of the LSR podcast because I know that there are many of you who rely on us to help your houseplants grow. You leave it playing when you leave the house. Maybe your baby can’t get to sleep and you need my melodic tones to just drone on for a while, and I’m really good at that.
Matt Brown (01:26):
The voice is … I mean, look, the voice is legit. Everyone knows this.
Adam Candee (01:31):
OK, but I mean, every now and then, I like to remind myself. No, I’m kidding. I get tired of the sound of my own voice after a while. But Massachusetts … Hey, you’re brand new to legal sports betting, so maybe you’re not tired of me yet. Six sportsbooks online launch over the weekend. A few interesting things to note. We obviously won’t have numbers for a while, in terms of what the online launch looked like. We did get some initial numbers from Massachusetts, in terms of their first month of in-person sports betting. It was paltry, as you would expect, didn’t clear $20 million in terms of handle in February with three retail sportsbooks live. That’s to be expected. We know now that most markets that put some form of online out there are going to do at least 80%-ish of their wagers, if not more, by online channels.
And so, we did see six of them launch over the weekend. No real major stories to come out of that. And frankly, that’s a good thing, considering we’ve had previous launches where a sportsbooks’ product wasn’t working very well, or people were feeling overwhelmed and inundated with their advertising and so on and so on. I would note that the Barstool situation I thought was interesting because we had a number of their personalities not only talking about betting on their platform, but saying … Dave Portnoy, around 10 a.m. on Friday when it launched, like, “Hey, I can’t bet on Barstool yet. What’s going on? Let’s get this together.” Basically like, “Hey, my own product isn’t working right now.”
And so, we knew that the regulations in Massachusetts said that employees of their own book cannot bet at their own book. And Penn had recently completed its acquisition of Barstool. So, we put the question to both Penn National or Penn Entertainment, excuse me, and to Barstool. And apparently, what happened is they have put a certain amount of employees onto what they call loan out agreements. That includes Dave Portnoy. That includes Dan Katz, Big Cat, Deion Sanders, Patrick Beverly. A number of very specific people are not technically employees of Barstool. So, I thought that was an interesting little twist to what we found out about Barstool on the opening weekend of Massachusetts online betting.
Dustin Gouker (03:51):
Guys, I need a shell corporation so I can bet. Somebody do that for me.
Adam Candee (03:56):
Well, BetGouker is just getting launched in Oregon, right? I didn’t know that you were licensed yet.
Dustin Gouker (04:04):
Yeah, I mean, it’s-
Matt Brown (04:05):
It’s Goukr though, without the E, right? Because that’s how you have to do it, right? It’s G O U K R. There’s no E.
Dustin Gouker (04:12):
Well, it’s … in Massachusetts, it’s Beth Gwerker.
Matt Brown (04:14):
Yeah, yeah. Yes, BetGwerker works even better, Dustin, with all this. Yeah, I mean, I’m glad there was some clarification on that, Adam. I mean, certainly, this is one of the deals where it’s been that way, certainly, in Nevada forever, right? I mean, you can’t bet at your own sportsbook in Nevada. I imagine that was going to be one of the deals that just carried over for forever with all of these other states that go along. And people might say like, “Well, what does it matter if you can bet at your own sportsbook that you … or if you can’t bet at your own sportsbook, you can bet at other sportsbooks and stuff.”
And it’s like, well, Adam, the thing is that we know that you can have … You can identify sharper bettors, right? I mean, you can identify certain things and stuff like that. And so, if you see a bet coming in and you know a line is going to move, or a market is going to move, or you have an idea that things are going to go a different way, it’s a very slippery slope if you’re betting at your own book when it comes to all of that stuff. And so, I think that is a … I’m glad that is a thing that we don’t have to worry about.
Adam Candee (05:16):
Well … And I would add to that, Matt, that often we have these … and we’re going to get into talking a little bit about one of them, these parlays or these offers that are based on something that one of these personalities has recommended, at least from a marketing perspective. And so, it probably at least alleviates, if not eliminates, questions about the legitimacy of some of those, as well.
Matt Brown (05:41):
Yeah, Dustin, that is a perfect segue there to heading into that discussion.
Dustin Gouker (05:47):
Yeah, one more thing on Massachusetts I think is interesting out of that GeoComply data, because yeah, we’re going to be waiting for numbers for a while, real numbers, but it is interesting to me, after that this in Ohio, Massachusetts was punching above its weight against other states that had similar sizes in population. Obviously, a fairly good time in front of March Madness from Massachusetts launch. But we’ve now seen two states in a row where we’ve had this real … even more of a critical mass. We’ve said how big launches are. These launches are getting even bigger. Part of that you presume is just the national consciousness is changing, that people are very … are more aware and more attuned to this. That’s reading a lot into a very little bit of data, but I think we have two pretty good data points where we just saw really high intake of new players into the legalized system. And that’s good.
So yes, onto the thing that I’ve been ranting about for going on a week now is … So, Barstool’s sportsbook has had this promotion with Big Cat called “Can’t Lose Parlays.” And there’s a lot of people who like to disagree with me on this one, I think. There’s a lot of people who agree with me too, but we just don’t need can’t lose parlays. I don’t care if … Yes, the three of us know it’s a joke, ha-ha, funny. Obviously, the parlay can lose, but this is not just … We’re not playing fun and games here. This is a real thing where, if somebody looks at this, yes, maybe they can identify that, yes, it actually can lose, but they also think that, oh hey … This guy who I know from Barstool or who’s on this app says this is a good bet. Maybe I should bet this.
I think that’s the problem from a responsible gambling/joke standpoint. Massachusetts has a very high level of regulation, is actually addressing it this morning or this afternoon, in Massachusetts time, about whether this is OK under Massachusetts regulations, sounds like Barstool and Penn are, or at least in Massachusetts, taking this language out. I’m here to tell you, let’s stop this everywhere. We don’t need can’t lose parlay. If your business marketing plan is so tied to, “You have to use this exact phrase, ‘can’t lose parlay,’” maybe your business plan sucks and stop it. We are in this…
Again, we say this every week now. We’re in this period of re-regulation and people really taking a look at this. And just the idea that the optics of can’t lose parlay is, “Oh that’s OK, that’s just funny, ha-ha” that time is over. We need to be … there needs … if it’s not coming … If the regulation is not coming from the regulators themselves, it needs to be self-regulation of the sportsbooks and say … We’ve seen so much of this after Ohio that people are pulling back and identifying what’s really important, what’s not. Can’t lose parlay is not one of those things that’s important.
Matt Brown (08:27):
Yeah. I mean, Adam, it’s one of those things where we often talk about like, “OK, we understand and we get it that we’re in the bubble. And we understand that we are super immersed in all of this.” Well, this is one of those times where I think the people who would give the opposition to this need to understand that maybe you’re too far in the bubble and too far in the weeds, whereas you are savvy enough or have been around it enough to understand that no bet is can’t lose, right? I mean, you get it, ha-ha, whatever, all that. Yes. But we are talking about … For example, if we look at what Eilers has put out, they estimate over 400,000 new accounts were signed up in Massachusetts, whatever. Of those 400,000 new accounts, you have to assume 85 to 90% of those people are probably new-ish betters, are kind of experimenting with all of this for the first time.
And so, when you say certain things to someone who doesn’t get the industry as well as we do, or someone that has been doing this as long as these even semi … I mean, look, you can be an upper-level recreational bettor, and you can probably even understand that nothing is a can’t lose. It’s a marketing gimmick. That being said, that is something that people outside of the bubble, people not familiar, people who haven’t been around all of this might not actually get. And that’s one of those things where you do have to take a step back and you have to say, “Hey, for the greater good here, is this really incredibly necessary?”
Adam Candee (09:56):
I agree with you, Matt. And I think there are people out there who would argue with both of us and say, “Oh, give people more credit than that. They’ll understand, right? They’ll get it. It’s clear from the way that they talk about it, the tone of voice and this and that.” And that’s where I would take issue, is to say the people who are ultimately going to make decisions about whether this is OK or not, it doesn’t even matter if they’re in the bubble, they’re not in on the joke. And they’re not in on the context. And when we look at the fact that bills to regulate sports betting advertising are in state legislatures and in Congress, those don’t come with context. Right?
And we’re already spending years on this podcast talking about the education curve for legislators and regulators with understanding the simple mechanics of sports betting, the very, very basics of it in the first place. If you think that the average legislator or regulator understands the nuance of what a personality from Barstool is talking about, or a personality from FanDuel, or DraftKings, or anywhere else for that matter, they don’t. And they’re not interested in it. And they’re not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s the kind of thing that, again, Dustin and I have referenced working in politics in the past. It’s the kind of thing that ends up on a big poster board behind a senator talking about why all of these things need to be banned.
Matt Brown (11:19):
And Dustin, it’s a little bit of a double standard as well with all of this because it’s the same people that want to say, “Hey, give them a break, it’s a joke, it’s a whatever” are also the same people who flame touts who say lock of the year, or lock of the week, or whatever, and stuff like that. It’s the same people saying that, where it’s kind of like, “Oh, give the guy a break. It’s just whatever, blah, blah, blah.” But then, a tout service comes out and says, “Five-star lock of the week, century, millennium and whatever” and then they get flamed for that.
It’s kind of the same thing. Because again, we all know there’s no such thing as a five-star lock of the year, century, whatever and blah blah. And that’s the reason that these people get flamed or whatever. And so, it’s like this little double standard that goes on just because I guess some people have a likability to the personality themselves.
Dustin Gouker (12:13):
Yeah. I mean, the thing is, it’s not hard to make this into something that actually looks like a joke. All you have is can’t lose parlay. That’s three words on a screen inside, again, inside the sportsbook. So, assume everybody who’s looking at Barstool’s sportsbook is in on this joke that Big Cat is a bad gambler. Sure. I guess. That’s either … Maybe that’s saying something about your sportsbook that you’re not able to acquire other customers, or … It says a lot, but not everybody who’s looking at this little widget on a sportsbook app is in on this joke. I can guarantee you that. But yeah, it’s so hard to … You could do this another …
You could put five-star diamond lock of the century/millennium, and that would be funny. Then, that actually reads as a joke maybe, because I think … but all you have is can’t lose. And that at least assumes that, yes, this person on the other side of this app says, “Oh, this is a good bet. You should bet it.” Again, where I come from, yes, we could all … And yeah, I’m not sure all. Many of us can understand that it’s not can’t lose. But again, it’s not worth the squeeze. That is what it comes down to. Just keep it off of my legislative and regulatory hearing, so I don’t have to see this come back to bite us all in the ass in however many years, which, again …
The other thing that we’re going to talk about is Pennsylvania. This is the pullback. We talk about it every day. We’re seeing pullback. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board told operators “free bet” no longer around the state. Now, to sportsbooks’ credit, this has largely already been done. Ohio was the start. Everybody’s kind of pulled back and found other ways to market their products. So, this is … Again, this is the environment you’re throwing us out there. If you’re going to die on the hill of, “Yeah, we really need it. We can’t really … We have to have can’t lose parlays or we have to have this very specific language and not come up with anything else to market our sportsbook,” I think that’s a problem with your marketing department and not a problem with the regulatory environment we all find ourselves in.
A study in states doing well at sports betting regulation
Matt Brown (14:08):
Yeah. Adam, I’m glad Dustin mentioned that because I actually have been paying a lot of attention to this. And since the Ohio stuff came out, I’ve seen … I’ve been in a couple of different states since then that have legalized sports betting across the country outside of Nevada. I pay hyper attention to this just because of this industry that we’re in and the stuff that we do here. And with all that, I have seen that, for the majority, specifically the big boys or whatever, that language is now gone. They have completely changed all of their marketing with all of that. But I think this just really does kind of pile onto what we’ve been talking about throughout the theme in the course of this whole podcast. So, it’s like, listen, what may seem obvious to you, if you are somewhat savvy in the industry, is not necessarily obvious to the masses.
And that’s kind of where we need to be with all of this. And I think, as we move forward, the sportsbooks themselves need to sit down and understand that, hey, we might be a little bit too in the bubble and in the weeds here and say, “Step back. Is this something that 98% of people are going to easily be able to decipher?”
And that’s kind of how we can move forward with all of this. Because again, on its surface, labeling something free bet is not incredibly harmful and all that, but it is at least a little bit confusing because we all know it’s not a free bet. You still have to put money up first and et cetera, et cetera. So, I’m glad that we’re moving in the direction of just complete and utter transparency in all of this and leave any ambiguity out of it.
Adam Candee (15:39):
From the high-level view on this, it comes across to me as an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. And when state level regulators step in … And it might not seem like a huge change for them to say, “Hey, in Ohio, you are not allowed to use this terminology.” But what it is, is that is proof of what the gaming industry has said about itself for a long time about, it is heavily regulated, and it is, hopefully, responsive to those regulators when things like this free-bet ban come down in Ohio. It then gets mirrored in Pennsylvania. It gets mirrored in Massachusetts and in other places. And that, when it’s done effectively, shows that sweeping regulation at the federal level is not something that this industry needs, but they need to prove it. You need to be able to prove it on a regular basis, when you can do it at the state level, when you can do it with state level regulators stepping in and they make what is not a heavy-handed change. It’s a small change.
And operators respond to it. And they realize like, “Hey, OK. Now that we’ve gotten our hands slapped and now that we’ve gotten a few hundred thousand dollars in fines over this sort of thing, maybe it’s not just the cost of doing business. Maybe we need to be serious about stepping back from this and responding to public perception.” And that is another big thing is, like you said, Matt, realizing that everybody has an in-the-bubble perspective to some level, and that responding to outside perception, when it comes to this industry in particular, is important.
Dustin Gouker (17:11):
And we can all be very dismissive of this idea of a federal ban like that. And I’m going to dismiss it for the next couple of years. It’s not happening this year. It’s not happening in a presidential election year. That’s not going to happen, but just dismiss it all over the long term for your own peril. This is a thing that could happen. I mean, heck, we just saw Belgium ban gambling advertisements. This is a world where this is possible. And if you don’t take some responsibility and be a little bit … just a little bit proactive … We’re not asking you to stop advertising or pull everything back, just do the stuff on the margins. Just cut it out, the stuff that’s really bad.
Matt Brown (17:48):
Yeah, no. Absolutely. And again, like we said, it seems like it’s heading in that direction. Of course, we’re monitoring this stuff every single week. And so, looks like everybody’s at least trending in the right direction. Hopefully, that continues and we don’t have to deal with any more of the nonsense here. Before we get out of here, though, this is something I talked to Adam about on the side just because I did want to clarify this. And I think most people listening to this podcast probably already know this. But hopefully, we are getting new listeners. And hopefully, there are new people who are attracted to the news and the ongoings in the industry.
The true story about Bally Sports and Bally Bet
And basically a whole bunch of lazy headlines came out, Adam, which was Bally Sports bankruptcy and whatever and all that. And I have people texting me going, “Are you serious? This company is that bad off?” And all of a sudden and everything, it’s like …
I’m like, “No, they had the naming rights to the network. It’s actually Sinclair. And by the way, it’s a subsidiary of Sinclair.” You had to do all this stuff. It’s way easier because it was just branded Bally Sports. They’re like Bally Sports bankruptcy going across these headlines. And it’s like, “No, Bally Sports still has Bally’s as a company and all that. They still have their casinos and they’re still going to try to do the sports betting thing and everything like that. It’s not them that’s doing the bankruptcy in this.”
Adam Candee (19:03):
Man. I got to say, if you’re Fox Sports and you used to be branded all over these RSNs, you dodged one on this, didn’t you?
Matt Brown (19:10):
Adam Candee (19:10):
You don’t have to be out there caught up in the middle of bankruptcy stories. Yeah, Diamond Sports, the subsidiary of Sinclair, filed for bankruptcy. It’s something they had signaled for a few weeks now was a possibility. And that’s going to put, I believe it’s something in the range of, 40 regional sports networks into bankruptcy. And look, Major League Baseball was already planning for this. There are plans to continue broadcasting games on those networks this year.
And the big thing to understand for our industry here is that Bally Bet, a subsidiary of Bally Corp., is not affected by this. And if you want more information, I might just have a story coming out at Legal Sports Report later today, further explaining to people, since we now have seen the actual Diamond filing, that that’s not going to be a concern. Now, there are plenty of other concerns for Bally Bet that we’ve already covered on this podcast, but this bankruptcy in particular is not one of them.
Matt Brown (20:05):
And the only thing I do want to … And I’m not trying to get ahead of anything here, Dustin, but I mean look, there are some of these teams now that are … and certainly in even just teams in the same region, who are kind of coming out saying like, “Hey look. We’ll just take over the network. These are things that we’re going to do.” It does make me wonder, with the betting partnerships that we do see with the various teams and things and stuff like that, if the … I’m using this for an example because the Astros and the Rockets got together and said, “Hey, we’ll just take over the network. We’ll do it ourselves, et cetera, et cetera.”
Do we see that network brought to you by whatever sports X, Y, Z or whatever should stuff start to move in Texas and things like that? I mean, I do think that it kind of opens up maybe some stuff that we’ll be talking about maybe over the next six months to a year, depending on how this network stuff does get divvied up and what Major League Baseball decides to do with all of these. Are they going to just hand them over to the teams and whatnot? Or is Major League Baseball going to try to do it themselves? But we might actually have some gambling implications with all of this, not gambling in itself, but gambling businesses and ties and different things down the line, because they’re going to have to foot the bill for these networks in some way, shape or form.
Dustin Gouker (21:21):
Yeah. You guys are way more the TV experts than I am, but they’re … All I know, that the teams and the leagues still want these games being shown somewhere, and they want the money that comes in from the rights. So, whether that’s done this way, or they’re going to broadcast it themselves, or, yes, just find another way to do it, they’re not ready for the disruption of, oh, our rights are now toast, because we’re not being able to serve this in a local market, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Yes. Or maybe there’s more niche streaming. We’ve seen … If latency ever gets straightened out, we know sportsbooks all want to show these games. Is that something that, maybe not in the near future, but maybe more of that in the future as well.
Matt Brown (22:02):
Yeah. Adam, can you imagine if you weren’t able to watch the Yankees? What would your life feel like if you couldn’t just turn on a Yankee game and you had to follow it on the little game tracker on one of the things? Your life would significantly, over the summer, be substantially worse, right? I mean, for me, it even would. And I don’t even have a baseball team. I don’t have a team.
Adam Candee (22:29):
Let me take you back to the mid-nineties when the Yankees played the Mariners in the division series. And it was on something called the Baseball Network. That was a playoff game that was on something called the Baseball Network that I couldn’t access. I was in Las Vegas. I couldn’t access it. My mom and I were sitting in the car in the garage with the engine turned on, listening to the radio broadcast of the game in extra innings. That’s the level to which I follow these things.
Matt Brown (22:59):
Adam Candee (23:00):
Every day, 4 o’clock comes around, I turn on the television. And it just goes on in the background. And that is just further proof that, even if it’s not the YES Network and the Yankees, there is money to be made somewhere within this if we go to a streaming app that is more team-based. Right now, MLB TV has at least put in a version of its streaming where you can get a single team, but maybe it’s something that the team ends up taking over in some way and provides more original content from inside their own locker room, and charges you a monthly subscription that goes outside of baseball season. There are ways to do this, but it’s going to take some re-imagining.
Matt Brown (23:38):
Yeah. I mean, listen. We’ve seen Bet broadcast of the NBA so far. The ESPN has put the Daily Wager crew side by side with a broadcast to walk us through things. They’re going to end up paying the bills somehow. Now again, I don’t … I’m not … Again, I’m not trying to say this is going to happen or whatever, but it would not shock me if these rights do get given to the teams or whatever, if we don’t see something along those lines, as you mentioned, Dustin, whether it’s a streaming companion that is gambling-based or betting-based or whatever it might be, somewhere along the way, it would not shock me. Wouldn’t shock me. I’ll just put it that way.
Dustin Gouker (24:17):
Yeah. All I know is if T-Mobile didn’t give me free MLB TV every year, I’d be out another whatever, a hundred some dollars. So, thank you, T-Mobile.
Matt Brown (24:25):
Dustin Gouker (24:25):
It’s unsponsored. We didn’t take any money from T-Mobile.
Matt Brown (24:29):
Unsponsored. However, if you would like to sponsor, you can slide into Dustin or Adam’s DMs. You can do that. Or follow them on Twitter first anyway, @DustinGouker, @AdamCandee, two E’s, no Y. Everything we talk about here on the podcast, you can find over at legalsportsreport.com, so please go over there, check out Adam’s team and what they’ve got going on, all of the hard work and listening to hearings and going through filings and all this stuff so you don’t have to. We are definitely appreciative of all of that. For Dustin, for Adam, I’m Matt. Talk to you guys next week.