Massachusetts Gaming Regulators Delay Sportsbook Votes on Various Concerns

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s (MGC) reputation for taking its time in voting on consequential topics is well-earned.

Massachusetts Gaming MGC sports betting Dave Portnoy
Massachusetts Gaming MGC sports betting Dave Portnoy
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has questions for Penn Entertainment and its close ties with controversial social media star Dave Portnoy. The state this week decided to hold off on voting on Penn’s sports betting license for Plainridge Park Casino and Barstool Sportsbook. (Image: The New York Times)

The MGC this week is undertaking preliminary reviews of Category 1 sports wagering operating license submissions from the state’s three commercial casinos. After more than 10 hours of deliberation over sportsbook applications from Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield on Tuesday and Wednesday, the five-member MGC opted not to vote on either tender.

Plainridge Park is seeking both in-person and mobile sports betting privileges, as permitted through the Category 1 sports wagering license afforded to the three casinos. The slots-only casino is seeking to provide Barstool Sportsbook and Fanatics market entry in the commonwealth.

MGM Springfield is also seeking retail and internet sportsbook concessions. The casino has partnered with its parent operating company’s sports gambling unit, BetMGM, for its in-person and online wagering businesses.

Wynn Resorts and Encore Boston Harbor are on the MGC docket Thursday for its sports wagering review. The casino is seeking approval to open a WynnBet Sportsbook at the Everett resort and online.

Wynn has partnered with Caesars Entertainment to tether its Category 1 sportsbook license to Caesars Sportsbook to allow the book to take bets online.

Portnoy Problem

Massachusetts gaming regulators voiced an array of concerns during the agency’s first two days of sportsbook application discussions.

In regards to Plainridge, MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein agreed with fellow Commissioners Nakisha Skinner and Eileen O’Brien. They decided that owner-operator Penn Entertainment’s control of Barstool Sports and its relationship with Barstool founder Dave Portnoy raises regulatory concerns.

Though the commissioners referenced the sexual misconduct allegations that have been levied against Portnoy in recent years — claims he denies — the agency voiced more worries over Barstool’s apparent lack of responsible gaming protocols. The commissioners said the media and sportsbook outlet seems to encourage irresponsible gaming, which is something that goes directly against a primary regulatory pillar of the MGC.

There is a lot that goes with David Portnoy being the main marketer of Barstool Sports and the applicant has hitched itself to that company and to that brand deliberately, to me, delving into what that means in terms of suitability, honesty, and integrity of the applicant. That bears a discussion by this commission,” O’Brien commented.

The other commissioners agreed and opted to delay voting on Plainridge Park’s Category 1 sports betting license until at least next week.

MGM Also Delayed

The MGC didn’t single out Penn and Barstool. The state also opted to forego voting on MGM Springfield’s Category 1 sports wagering application after the casino informed the state that BetMGM — not MGM Springfield — would be running the property’s on-site sportsbook.

MGM officials explained that BetMGM is already operating extensively in other highly regulated markets across the country. Skinner said she didn’t feel comfortable moving forward with a vote on MGM Springfield’s Category 1 sports betting license until the state can field additional internal documents from BetMGM.

“In terms of a full evaluation and deliberation of the application, I’m just not prepared to do that today without having the benefit of the review of the BetMGM application,” commented Skinner.

The MGM sports betting vote has also been delayed until at least next week.

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