Barstool’s Parlay Sparks Mass. Gaming Commission Hearing

Barstool’s Parlay Sparks Mass. Gaming Commission Hearing
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Wednesday held an adjudicatory hearing on Barstool Sportsbook’s “Can’t Lose Parlay” to determine if the promotion’s language violates Massachusetts sports betting and marketing regulations.

The parlays no longer are being promoted by Barstool Sports or its owner, PENN Interactive.

The promotional parlay from Barstool Sports personality Dan "Big Cat" Katz was on a four-game men's college basketball parlay involving conference tournament games (Ohio State vs. Michigan State, Alabama-Birmingham vs. North Texas, Ohio vs. Toledo and Indiana vs. Maryland) that were played on Friday, March 10. That date also happens to be the launch date of Massachusetts sports betting apps.

Two days later, Chris Soriano, Penn National Gaming's vice president and chief compliance officer, contacted the state's Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) about the promo and voluntarily stopped the promotion on Monday, March 13.

“No reasonable bettor would consider the parlay as ‘can’t lose’ and the promotion does not violate Massachusetts regulations. It’s a humorous, satirical promotion highlighting Big Cat’s poor betting track history,” said Penn counsel Jonathan M. Albano during Barstool’s defense. Albano said later that the company would sign a document that states they would cease further use of the “Can’t Lose Parlay” in the future for all sports.

Barstool Sportsbook Massachusetts gained MGC approval to operate in the state on Jan. 4.

Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Must be 21+ to participate & present in MA. In Partnership with MGM Springfield. Visit BetMGM.com for T&Cs. Play it smart from the start with GameSense. GameSenseMA.com. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-327-5050 or visit gamblinghelplinema.org. US promotional offers not available in NY, NV, or Puerto Rico.

MGC Challenges Barstool Side of Story

MGC Commissioner Eileen O’Brien argued that the promotion did happen in 2021 and in a letter to the American Gaming Association (AGA) that year Penn had said it was no longer offering it. Yet, the promotion popped up in March of this year, O’Brien said.

“At that time, it was not an active wager,” Soriano said in the hearing. “We have offered it since. And we have suspended it since and will stop using it going forward.”

During the 132-minute robust discussion, Penn argued that “no reasonable person could look at the odds and think it’s risk free. That’s the legal standard.”

“The absence of consumer complaints is positive. If consumer complaints would be relevant, so is absence of consumer complaints,” Albano said. “We can’t know if someone bought Crunch Berries and thought it was a healthy meal. Would a reasonable person think that? The odds to win are the ingredients on the box. I see long shot and I need to win four. And this is on a betting app.”

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein responded.

“Where is it on the app that says that you are ‘highly likely’ to lose?” she asked. “On Cap’n Crunchcereal box, it says somewhere these are not real berries. Berries mean berries, until somebody tells me differently . . . what is the standard we should apply?”

The MGC announced at the start of the hearing that it will not decide on the issue today and will issue a written result on another date. Punishments range from reprimand, monetary fine or suspension/revocation of its license.

This is not the only piece of advertising currently under the MGC’s microscope.

Earlier this week, O’Brien asked the IEB to investigate three FanDuel ads that contained references to either iGaming, free bets, or being able to fund accounts with credit cards or prepaid cards, all of which are against state regulations. Not one was self-reported by FanDuel Massachusetts.

Stay tuned. 

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Author

Lou Monaco

Lou Monaco had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene. He also currently is a part-time writer for the high school sports department for NJ Advanced Media (NJ.com) in Iselin, NJ. Lou has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.

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