Barstool, Penn Face $250,000 Fine for Alleged Violations of Ohio Gaming Laws; Could Mass. License Be Impacted?

The Ohio Casino Control Commission could levy a $250,000 fine against Penn Entertainment for an alleged gaming violation by Barstool Sports.

Barstool, which is 36% owned by Penn, is accused of promoting its sportsbook to students under the age of 21 from a campus parking lot of the University of Toledo during a live telecast/podcast of The Barstool Tailgate Show. The show was part of a tailgating special on Nov. 15, the day of Toledo’s annual college football rivalry game against Bowling Green State University.

According to reporting by the Toledo Blade, Barstool potentially violated two gaming rules: advertising to those under 21; and advertising on/near a college campus. During the show on Nov. 15, Barstool evidently promoted early registration with their sportsbook and touted its betting bonuses, according to Jessica Franks, Director of Communications for the OCCC.

“They were encouraging folks to preregister; they were advertising the Sportsbook,” Franks told the Toledo Blade.

Penn plans to take 100% ownership of Barstool in 2023.

The OCCC will apparently vote on the possible violation at its next meeting, with a fine of at least $250,000 on the table. That meeting will likely take place in January 2023. The commission last met on Dec. 14, at which time the allegation against Penn and Barstool was placed on record by state officials.

In a statement emailed to Gaming Today, Jeff Morris, VP of Public Affairs, Penn National Gaming, said, “We look forward to the opportunity to address this directly with the Ohio Casino Control Commission through its regulatory process. Other than that, we do not comment on pending regulatory matters.”

Under Ohio gaming laws, a violation such as the one alleged against Barstool is punishable by a minimum fine of $250,000. According to the Toledo Blade, Bartstool could “face either a fine, a sanction, or an action on a license if the OCCC decides to take action.”

Ohio will launch its much-anticipated sports betting market on Jan. 1, 2023, but approved sportsbooks are allowed to pursue pre-registration of customers before that date. Barstool has been awarded a license to operate a mobile sportsbook in the state.

Barstool Faces Scrutiny by Massachusetts Gambling Regulators

The potential punishment in Ohio comes days after Penn Entertainment’s application for a sports betting license in Massachusetts was delayed by regulators worried about its association with Barstool founder David Portnoy.

barstool david portnoy
Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy on Jan. 22, 2022 (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

In recent reporting by the New York Times, Portnoy was characterized as a “degenerate gambler,” and accusations of sexual misconduct were also raised. The reporting was enough to make Massachusetts regulators pause on awarding Penn Entertainment a license in the state.

As Rebecca Hanchett reported for Gaming Today in November, gaming regulators in Massachusetts are sensitive to sports betting being advertised to consumers under the age of 21. Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Eileen O’Brien successfully secured a delay of license approvals after raising concerns about targeting people under 21 by sports betting operators.

The alleged violation by Barstool in Ohio could serve as a red flag for the MGC regarding awarding a Massachusetts sports betting license to Penn Entertainment, which seeks to operate a sportsbook at Plainridge Park Casino, a racino near Boston.

Penn Completing Acquisition of Barstool

Penn Entertainment and its subsidiary Penn Sports Interactive are in the process of finalizing a reported $387 million acquisition of Barstool Sports.

Penn originally acquired a 36% stake in Barstool for $163 million in 2020. Barstool was founded by Portnoy in 2003 as a sports flyer in Boston and has grown into a media empire with podcasts and web content that has proved to be highly attractive to young, male sports fans. In 2020, the first Barstool Sports betting app was launched.

About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a veteran writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He has written three books, including The Ballplayers: Baseball’s Greatest Players Remembered, Ranked, and Revealed, which will be released in 2024. Holmes has previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball.

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