Rece Davis ‘Risk-Free Investment’ Quip Lands Penn In MA Sports Betting Hearing

Written By

Updated on

Rece Davis

ESPN anchor Rece Davis describing a sports betting pick as a “risk-free investment” has resulted in an adjudicatory hearing from the Massachusetts sports betting regulator. 

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided that an adjudicatory hearing was required for ESPN Bet parent company Penn Entertainment during its meeting on Thursday

Davis provided a seemingly contrite clarification for the ill-advised sports betting quip in March via Twitter before later clarifying that he was not apologizing. 

The Ohio Casino Control Commission previously referred to Davis’s description as an “objectionable statement,” though it did not take action.

O’Brien tackles sports betting comment

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien was the first Massachusetts regulator to suggest that the matter should be heard as an adjudicatory hearing, with the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau serving as a witness. 

Commissioners Nakisha Skinner and Bradford Hill, and interim chair Jordan Maynard all agreed with O’Brien. O’Brien previously voiced her concern about the seamless experience between ESPN and ESPN Bet. 

“This reminds me of the ‘Can’t Lose Parlay’ that we delved into with Barstool,” O’Brien said. “And this is something I’ve been waiting to come up. I want to see is this a one-off, or have there been other references in this vein? It’s an area that I, as one commissioner, am concerned about, sort of this cross-pollination between the ESPN commentators and then the lines and the betting and the commentary that they make. So I would like to do a deep-dive.” 

Behind Davis sports betting quip

During a March segment on College GameDay, ESPN analyst Erin Dolan explained why bettors should take Northwestern University to score under 60.5 points against the University of Connecticut

“Some would call this wagering, gambling,” Davis said. “I think the way you sold this … I think what it is is risk-free investment.” 

Davis was heavily criticized on social media in the aftermath. 

Rece Davis: sorry not sorry?

He ultimately went on The Pat McAfee Show to clarify that he was not apologizing for the comment. 

“I don’t want to make this a big deal. It was just a small segment, it was a throwaway line. Any reasonable person knew I was being facetious, because there’s nothing in life that comes without risk, especially gambling. That’s obvious for anyone who knows anything,” Davis said.

“But I didn’t apologize. I clarified. And I don’t think that anybody thought we were really handing out free money. But maybe it’s a better course of action, in the future, I’ll go with the old David Letterman line of, ‘This is an exhibition, not a competition, so please, no wagering.’ Maybe that’s the way we’ll go from now on.”

‘Can’t Lose Parlay’ controversy first

Penn Entertainment (then Penn Sports Interactive) previously told state regulators that it would sign documentation ensuring a permanent ban on the use of the “Can’t Lose Parlay” following an earlier controversy. 

Barstool personality Dan Katz aka Big Cat had posted a college basketball parlay. It followed the legal launch of Massachusetts sports betting in March 2023

Barstool voluntarily stopped offering the wagering promotion three days after the post. 

Photo by AP/Sam Craft