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Massachusetts approves Barstool betting license, but will also investigate brand


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has voted to approve Penn Sports Interactive and its Barstool brand for a sports betting license, but only under certain conditions, including cooperation with an investigation.

The decision followed multiple public meetings between Penn representatives and the MGC where the commissioners grilled the Barstool-operator on several items. Among the topics under discussion was concerns over the Barstool brand and its controversial founder David Portnoy.

In particular, there were questions over the connection between the Barstool Sports, a media organisation founded by Portnoy, and the Barstool Sportsbook, the Penn-owned betting platform.

While the committee voted unanimously to find the licensee suitable for a Category 3 sports wagering license, the Commissioners placed several conditions on this eligibility.

Conditions on vote

The MGC will require that the operator allows no person under the age of 18 will be allowed into Barstool College Football Show events, to cooperate with an Investigations and Enforcement Bureau investigation into Barstool Sports “in connection with the licensee’s branding” and provide the Commission with diversity goals for its workforce as well as its supplier spend.

Penn additionally stated that it would no longer use the phrase “risk-free” in its marketing materials – a phrase that has been criticized for contravening responsible gambling goals.

“Penn Sports Interactive (PSI) is now eligible to request a temporary license to conduct sports wagering while a full suitability review is undertaken by the MGC,” said the Commission in a statement. “Following a temporary license being granted, PSI must obtain an operations certificate and meet additional conditions before they can accept wagers on approved sporting events.”

Barstool acquisition

In 2020, Penn acquired a 36% in Barstool for $161.2m (£134m/ $151.9m). After this, the operator rebranded its sportsbook under the Barstool brand.

Penn agreed to increase its stake in Barstool beyond 50% within three-years. This granted Penn exercisable call rights that would allow it to purchase the remainder of the media business.

In August, Penn made us of its option to control the entirety of the Barstool business, with a timetable set for the scheme to be completed by early 2023.