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Controversy delays betting license at Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has deferred its decision to award an in-person betting license to PENN Entertainment Inc for its Plainridge Park Casino venue due to recent controversies surrounding the brand.

The state’s gaming commission has decided to move its vote back after concerns about the company’s responsible gambling policies were raised in an investigation conducted by the gambling commission.

Sports betting became legal in Massachusetts in August 2022 and since then many gambling operators have been clamouring to get a share of the newly-birthed market.

PENN Entertainment, the owner of Barstool Sportsbook and co-owner of Barstool Sports, also expressed interest and was on the way to winning the license until the Massachusetts Gaming Commission brought up its affiliation with David Portnoy, founder and face of Barstool Sports.

Portnoy was recently the recipient of negative press, with a New York Times article calling him a “degenerate gambler” amidst other allegations. He was particularly flayed for advertising an alcoholic drink, while loudly talking about a recent $100,000 wager, while in the midst of college students at the University of Tennessee.

This has caused a public uproar and a particular source of concern for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission who are uneasy about the operator’s relationship with the controversial character.

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien referred to the news story as the “elephant in the room” during licensing deliberations. She expressly stated her concerns to the operator about Barstool’s “marketing and advertising that is geared toward college-aged students and some of the other types of marketing and advertising that you have hitched yourselves to in the future.”

O’Brien noted the relationship with Portnoy and his role as the face of Barstool Sports, and what it means “in terms of suitability, honesty and integrity” of PENN Entertainment and their bid for a license.

However, this does not seem to be something new to the operator as it knew the risks of partnering with Barstool Sports to promote its sportsbook. In fact, PENN got ahead of the matter by tendering the news story to the MGC, which would otherwise have gone unnoticed by the board. It did this out of a need to prioritise its integrity and transparency.

Though the board is yet to finalise its decision the situation is not so bleak for PENN. Its track record of responsible gambling makes its application a viable one.

The MGC is also considering the applications of MGM Springfield (BetMGM), Encore Boston Harbor (WynnBET) and Plainridge Park (Fanatics Sportsbook). The commission is not looking to commence in-person sports betting until late January 2023.

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