The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved Plainridge Park Casino’s Category 1 retail sports betting license application on Tuesday. The move means that now all three Bay State gambling properties have been greenlighted to conduct sports wagering once the market launches next year. Additionally, commissioners voted to approve Caesars Sportsbook’s mobile license.
Unlike the durable suitability license approvals the MGC issued to Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield, the Plainridge Park Casino license is temporary, reports Boston Globe. Commissioners said the status was needed to address concerns the regulator has with regard to the parent company Penn Entertainment’s association with Barstool Sports.
Plainridge Park’s temporary license has attached a condition that stipulates that no one under the age of 21 can attend any Barstool College Football Show event. The permit also requires Plainridge to cooperate fully with the MGC’s investigation into Barstool Sports and any potential problems the controversial media company could pose to the casino’s branding efforts.
As for Caesars Entertainment’s approval for a Category 3 online sports betting license, it came with a condition that the firm will not make any marketing or advertising arrangements with a Massachusetts college or university. The mobile betting license is tethered to the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett.
Encore Boston Harbor
While Tuesday saw the approval of two new licenses, the MGC voted late in the afternoon not to begin a hearing on the Category 3 Barstool Sportsbook application. Instead, that discussion has been pushed back to January 3. Commissioners had similarly delayed a previous vote on Plainridge Park Casino’s application earlier this month amid concerns with the ties to Barstool Sports’ controversial founder, Dave Portnoy.
“The concern that I have about Barstool and the relationship with PPC, Penn and now [Penn Sports Interactive] has a lot to do with branding and not simply responsible gaming,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said at the meeting, as reported by Boston 25 News. “[...] Tying your brand to that brand brought in the good, the bad and the ugly that came with that brand.”
Penn Entertainment President and CEO Jay Snowden offered a strong defense of Portnoy, who founded Barstool nearly two decades ago. Snowden said Penn would not have partnered with Portnoy if he were misogynistic or racist, as critics have alleged, reports the Globe. Penn Entertainment bought a 36% stake in Barstool in 2020 and is on track to assume 100% ownership of the Boston-founded company next year.
Snowden also said that “neither David Portnoy nor anyone else at Barstool” has any control or decision-making authority over the operations of either the retail or online operations of Barstool Sportsbook. All decisions, directions and influence are made entirely by Penn team members “who are authorized to do so and are licensed to do so as required.”
Barstool founder Dave Portnoy
The executive further described Barstool as “solely Penn’s media and marketing partner,” set to continue to operate as such once the full acquisition completes next February. “Barstool has been a successful partner and they are a critical element of Penn’s unique omnichannel strategy,” added Snowden. “Our relationship with Barstool is one of the reasons we’ve been able to significantly grow the younger 21 to 45-year-old segments of our casino database over the last two years, leading to meaningful revenue growth in our retail casino operations.”
Retail sports betting in Massachusetts is scheduled to launch in late January, while online betting is set to start in March. Each casino in the state – Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, and MGM Springfield – is allowed to hold in-person betting and mobile wagering through two individually branded applications.
Both Caesars Sportsbook and WynnBET, which was awarded a license last week, will operate mobile betting applications tied to Encore Boston Harbor. And on Monday, the Gaming Commission voted to award BetMGM a mobile sports betting license tied to MGM Springfield.