It’s information overload everywhere, and there’s not time enough to sleep and eat and stay fully apprised of what’s happening on this crazy blue dot of ours (two out of three ain’t bad). Here’s the weekend Sports Handle item, “Get a Grip,” recapping the week’s top U.S. sports betting headlines, highlighting some fresh news, and rounding up key stories.
Top stories around our network this week
It hasn’t been a great month thus far for PENN Entertainment, its Barstool Sportsbook, Dave Portnoy, and his Barstool Sports operation as they prepare to be part of upcoming launches in Ohio and Massachusetts.
PENN, as part-owner of Barstool Sports (and soon to be full owner), relies on edgy Barstool as the brand for its sportsbook and on the controversial, attention-getting Portnoy and his colleagues to promote the site. But recently, he’s not bringing the kind of attention any major gaming company would want.
Following an in-depth New York Times piece examining Portnoy’s history of heavy gambling and other questionable behavior, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission last week postponed any decision relating to licensing of PENN’s sportsbook operations.
And then another, heavier shoe dropped this week, with the Ohio Casino Control Commission announcing plans for an unusually large $250,000 fine against PENN/Barstool Sportsbook due to inappropriate marketing aimed at college students. The fine, which can be appealed, stemmed from a Nov. 15 visit to the University of Toledo campus by the Barstool College Football Show, which promoted pre-registration for the Barstool Sportsbook site ahead of the state’s official Jan. 1 launch.
Publicly, PENN’s executives have consistently downplayed any idea that the past two years of ties to Portnoy and Barstool Sports have caused them any headaches, but there’s no telling what they’re saying behind closed doors about these latest snags in two sizable states that will be important for future operations.
Just to show that PENN and Barstool aren’t alone in missteps in the ever-competitive pursuit of new customers, BetMGM was itself on the defensive in costly ways in multiple states this week. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission fined the major operator $146,000 for prematurely accepting 146 bets in advance of the state’s official mobile sports betting launch last month. Separately, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fined BetMGM and its casino partner $7,500 for taking bets on a September 2021 exhibition fight involving 58-year-old Evander Holyfield that the gaming board had deemed unacceptable for any legal wagering.
It appears that even after several years of experience with the spread of legal sports betting across the U.S., sportsbook operators are still learning how to toe the line in a way expected by regulators. Sports Handle and its network of sites and reporters will stay on top of such problems, in addition to providing plenty of other content, as these stories from the past week demonstrate.
Let’s do something about these hacks
Big decision ahead for Florida
Fast-acting betting’s the new thing
Go ahead and hit me
It’s tough to keep UFC down
Sharp, pro bettors have it tough, too
WynnBET is making moves
Ohio gearing up for New Year’s party
Poker pooling should be a hit
All the numbers, all the states
New NCAA prez backs betting
Outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker — a proponent of legal sports betting — will replace Mark Emmert as president of the NCAA, the organization announced Thursday. Baker brings executive-level experience to the job, but he does not have a history of working in sports.
It’s somewhat curious that a national sports organization which has been reticent about embracing legal wagering would hire a leader who supported legal wagering in his state to the extent that he pressed lawmakers and filed his own bill on the subject.
Baker, who played college basketball, filed bills in 2019 and 2021 that would have legalized sports betting but banned wagering on college sports. The bill that ultimately passed in Massachusetts does allow for betting on college sports, but it bans betting on most local college events. Sports betting is set to go live in the Bay State in the first quarter of 2023.
— Jill R. Dorson
Massachusetts has new rules, schedule
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday passed regulations pertaining to internal controls and the state’s Small Business Impact Statement, and it announced an updated schedule for reviewing sports betting license applications.
The new rules include a breakdown of how the “cooling off” period for bettors who voluntarily want a break from wagering would work. Bettors would be able to pause wagering on individual apps for up to a month.
After falling behind its self-imposed scheduled this week, the MGC is planning two application-review meetings next week for MGM Springfield (retail) and BetMGM (digtal) on Monday. On Tuesday, it will consider Plainridge Park (retail), Caesars Sportsbook (digital), and, time permitting, PENN Interactive/Barstool Sportsbook (digital) and Fanatics (digital).
— Jill R. Dorson
More of the most important, interesting stories
A PUSH TO EXORCISE THE EXCISE TAX: Titus hopes 70-year-old sports betting tax is on the chopping block [The Nevada Independent]
THIS SHARP BETTING STUFF IS SOOO NUANCED: Getting precise about closing line value [Unabated]
WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO ABOUT THESE KIDS? Gen Z keeps sports executives up at night [Morning Consult]
STOP THE PRESSES — POL CHANGES HIS POSITION: Why ex-Gov. Rick Perry decided to become a spokesman in support of sports betting [Denton Record-Chronicle]
"Officials believes that legalized sports betting in Texas would result in more than $250 million a year in tax revue for the state."
Rick Perry wants Texas to legalize online sports bettinghttps://t.co/dDMAhOtQS3
— Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) December 14, 2022
JUST A FEW THINGS TO BOWL YOU OVER: College football betting trends: 50 trends, stats, notes for 2022 bowl season [Action Network]
WILL VERMONT OR WON’T VERMONT? Group commissioned by legislature says Vermont should legalize sports betting [Associated Press]
CONGRATS ON YOUR WINNINGS, NOW YOU’RE BANNED: Meet the Yale med student who made thousands — and then was banned from sports betting sites [CT Insider]
WE’RE NO ALBERTA OVER HERE: Ontario holds the line on UFC betting ban [CDC Gaming Reports]