MA Gaming Commish Stalls First Sports Betting License Review Due to Barstool

Written by: Mike Lukas
Updated December 9, 2022
4 min read
  • Massachusetts Gaming Commish Delays Over Concerns with Barstool Founder Portnoy

  • Gov. Charlie Baker Signed a MA Sports Betting Bill into Law on Aug. 10, 2022

  • Thirty-Plus U.S. States Have Already Legalized Sports Betting for Residents

MA Gaming Commission Sports Betting License

Massachusetts Gaming Commish Delays Over Concerns with Barstool Founder Portnoy

Long ago, the philosopher Goethe said, “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are,” and that still holds true today, a possible reason the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has delayed the sports betting license application of the Plainridge Park Casino.

That casino is partnered up with Penn Entertainment, “North America's leading provider of integrated entertainment, sports content, and casino gaming experiences,” who also owns Barstool Sports, a digital media company whose owner, David Portnoy, can be ‘trouble.’

The Gaming Commish is concerned that Portnoy’s reputation for winning (and losing) big bets would send the wrong message to Massachusetts residents, some of whom already struggle with problem gambling, with MGC Chair Kathy Judd-Stein telling the media:

“I am focused on, and there are other issues, and we know that, but I, like Commissioner (Eileen) O’Brien, am focused on not just the play at universities, but just the messaging around what I perceive to be the glorification of excessive gambling. I could be convinced, as I said, with data. How do we reconcile that with our programs?”

Because of Penn’s association with Portnoy, another commissioner called Barstool Sports ‘the elephant in the room,’ which could explain why Tuesday’s MGA meeting ended with Plainridge Park Casino’s application still unapproved.

Yet another delay keeping legal sports betting from launching there.

Gov. Charlie Baker Signed a MA Sports Betting Bill into Law on Aug. 10, 2022

Massachusetts lawmakers have had since May 2018 to get this legal sports betting operation launched, that date when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned PASPA which gave each state the right to legalize, regulate, and tax their own operation, but the Bay State has yet to do that.

State legislators finally did pass a MA sports betting bill right before the 2022 session ended, and then Governor Charlie Baker signed it into law on Aug. 10, which means the MGC has had over four months to get that market set up with license applications now being reviewed.

The Plainridge Park Casino application was the first one the MGC looked at so they will most likely continue their evaluation during the next two December meetings they have scheduled, the first on Friday, December 9, and the second on Monday, December 12.

Gaming Commission Chair Judd-Stein reportedly said,

“We’re at a crossroads right now because of the information that is presented to us. None of the concerns we’re raising today are private in nature, you recognized them, Penn recognized them, and so that’s why I say we’re at a crossroads right now.”

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the U.S. is enjoying its legal sports betting.

Thirty-Plus U.S. States Have Already Legalized Sports Betting for Residents

Since the overturning of PASPA, over thirty U.S. states have launched their own sports betting markets giving their residents legal access to that activity, while those bettors who live in states like Massachusetts are still forced to take their action elsewhere, a much riskier venture.

Options like local illegal bookies and unregulated offshore sportsbooks exist, of course, but going those routes to place bets puts gamblers in the position of having no real guarantees backing their wagers.

Not to mention all that lost potential sports betting tax revenue that Massachusetts has yet to pull in, a fiscal fire under the seats of state lawmakers, no doubt, who must continue to compromise and move closer to launch.

Keep checking back for all the latest news and updates on this ongoing story.

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Mike Lukas

Sports Betting & Gambling Industry Analyst

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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.
Nationality: American
Education: N/A
Favourite Sportsbook: bet365 Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: Caesars Palace Casino
23 years
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