PENN, Barstool Face Tough Questions At MA Sports Betting Application Hearing

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MA sports betting

A six-hour meeting to decide what is essentially a guaranteed retail MA sports betting license for PENN Entertainment ended without a vote Tuesday.

Multiple members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission expressed concern with the suitability of PENN’s sports betting partner, Barstool Sportsbook. That led to postponing the vote until a later date.

The Massachusetts sports betting bill sets aside retail licenses for casinos and racetracks. That said, Chair Cathy Judd-Stein admitted the commission was at a “crossroads” following the New York Times piece that detailed Penn’s relationship with Barstool Sports and some unsavory details of its founder, Dave Portnoy.

MA commission questions RG, suitability

The Barstool-specific conversation starts around four hours and 24 minutes in. Commissioner Eileen O’Brien started by noting her questions concern both responsible gambling and suitability.

She brought up the NYT piece and specifically highlighted the part that mentions the Barstool College Football Show hosted in Knoxville, TN in September.

O’Brien took issue with the mention of gambling and the advertisement of alcoholic beverages at a college event. Issues outlined in the article and the idea of the brand coming to Massachusetts “disturbed” O’Brien, she said, asking what is being done in response.

PENN vague on specifics

Both PENN Chief Compliance Officer Chris Soriano and Senior VP of Regional Operations Erin Chamberlin chose to address what others are doing instead of focusing on Barstool itself.

Soriano focused on how many media outlets include gambling talk in their sports shows, but that it does not equate to sports betting being promoted. Chamberlin, meanwhile, noted that PENN and Barstool are not partnering with colleges like some competitors.

That led Judd-Stein to skeptically question those comments.

“Are we being genuine here? Because I believe that PENN Entertainment brought the article to the attention of [the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau]. I don’t believe you would have brought it to the attention of the IEB if you thought that they, and I’m using they because you’re using the word they, that your spokespeople for Barstool are advocates for responsible gaming. If that were the case, why would you bring that article to the attention of IEB?

“Because you would assume that there’s some risk attached to that article. So I just want to make sure we’re all being very, very clear here that regulators here in Massachusetts are really at a crossroads.”

No sports betting license for MGM yet

The MGC also delayed its vote to approve MGM Springfield for a retail license on Wednesday, but for more mundane reasons.

Commissioners seemed frustrated that areas of MGM Springfield’s application instructed commissioners to view the online application for BetMGM, which is not part of the retail license process. Online applications will be looked at next week and commissioners said they would wait to get a complete look at MGM Springfield.

The MGC will hold another hearing Thursday for its final casino retail betting applicant, Wynn‘s Encore Boston Harbor.