Concerns About Barstool Prompt Delay in Massachusetts Sportsbook Licensing

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Just four months after signing sports betting into law, Massachusetts today considered awarding its first sports betting license ahead of the commonwealth’s January retail launch. 

Plans changed as questions about one of the applicant’s sports betting partners surfaced.

The applicant is Plainridge Park Casino, a Boston-area racino that is one of three casinos eligible to offer in-person sports betting in the commonwealth under Massachusetts’ new sports wagering law. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) eyed awarding a retail license to the casino today until concerns were raised about Barstool, one of the casino’s two betting partners.

Citing a Nov. 20 New York Times expose of Barstool founder David Portnoy, Commissioner Eileen O’Brien asked the MGC to take a deeper look at the sportsbook brand’s suitability. The commission went into executive session around 4:30 p.m. ET, with no plans to return for public discussion today. 

Dave Portnoy, Silvana Mojica
Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and Silvana Mojica at The Surf Lodge on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Montauk, N.Y. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

A vote on the Plainridge Park application could be held off until the MGC hears from Barstool/Penn Interactive during its vetting of Massachusetts mobile sports betting license applicants next week. 

Once licensed and certified, Plainridge Park will be able to launch an in-person sportsbook. Plans are to go live before the Super Bowl. 

“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” Plainridge Park Casino General Manager North Grounsell said today. “While this would be a new form of betting, we remain the same Plainridge Park you’ve known for the past seven years.” 

Tomorrow, the MGC will consider awarding a retail sports betting license to another casino, MGM Springfield. Encore Boston Harbor goes before the commission for a retail sports betting license on Thursday.

Eighteen Kiosks and Five Betting Windows To Start

Plainridge Park plans to have up to 18 kiosks and five betting windows available for sports betting at a temporary sportsbook at the casino in late January, according to Grounsell. He said the casino, not Barstool, will operate the temporary sportsbook.

A permanent Barstool-branded sports lounge is expected to open in an expanded gaming space at the casino’s Flutie’s Sports Pub location at a later date. 

Once live, Grounsell said the casino will offer fans a full slate of betting options, with wagering on at an estimated 5,000 or more sports markets including the NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, WNBA, and NHL. 

“This incorporates over 1,000 domestic and international sports leagues across 45 different men’s and women’s sports and includes exhibition, preseason, regular season, postseason, and all-star events for all approved sporting leagues,” he told the MGC.

Final say on what types of bets are allowed in Massachusetts will be up to the commission.  All legal bet types will be included in the betting catalog released by the MGC at a later date. Under state law, some sports bets are already prohibited, including high school sports and non-tourney college games in which a Massachusetts team is participating. 

Mobile Sportsbooks To Be Licensed Separately in Mass

In addition to plans for its retail sportsbook, Plainridge Park has applied for two online sports betting licenses – one through Barstool/Penn Interactive and another through Fanatics. 

Online licenses tied to casinos may be awarded separately by the MGC next week. 

The other two casinos in the commonwealth – Encore Boston Harbor (Caesars and WynnBet) and MGM Springfield (BetMGM) – could be awarded in-person licenses by the MGC at separate hearings this week. Both casinos will also be vying for online licenses next week. 

Several Massachusetts Sportsbooks on the Way

A total of 15 sports wagering applications were received by the MGC by its Nov. 21 filing deadline. Those included three retail sports betting applications from each of the state’s three casinos and 12 mobile sports betting applications.

State regulators plan to award the in-person licenses first to meet its timeline for a late January retail sports betting launch at the casinos. Mobile sportsbooks tied to each casino and up to six standalone sportsbooks not tied to any retail location will launch in early March. 

Of the 12 mobile sports betting license applications filed by Nov. 21, five are tied to casinos and six are for standalone apps. 

The six standalone sportsbook apps competing for a license in Massachusetts are BallyBet, Betr, Betway, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet

The remaining mobile application is from horse racing simulcast facility Raynham Park. The simulcast facility is partnering with bet365 for its sportsbook launch sometime next year. 

In-person and mobile sports betting licenses tied to the commonwealth’s two horse racing simulcast facilities at Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs will be awarded on a rolling basis. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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