MGC Meeting Recap for the Week of November 6, 2023
The MGC held a number of public meetings over the first full week of November 2023, with topics varying from horse racing to sports wagering and Commission agenda setting.
On Monday, the Commission held an adjudicatory hearing to hear information regarding an application from Plainville Gaming and Redevelopment to hold a horse racing meeting at Plainridge Park Casino. The Commission must approve or deny applications to hold live horse racing for 2024 by November 15, 2023. This meeting was a follow-up to a public hearing that was held in person at Plainville Town Hall to solicit public input on the application.
On Tuesday, November 7, the MGC held a public meeting to discuss a single item – Penn Sports Interactive’s (PSI) new relationship with ESPN and their proposed transition from Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN Bet.
When PSI launched its sports wagering operation in Massachusetts, it operated under the brand Barstool Sportsbook. This branding was in partnership with their then-own media company Barstool Sports. Recently, PSI parent company Penn Entertainment sold Barstool Sports and moved forward with plans to re-brand its sports betting operation. Penn/PSI entered into a well-publicized deal with ESPN, one of the most recognized sports media companies in America.
Much like their marketing arrangement with Barstool Sports, the proposed relationship with ESPN has raised questions for commissioners on the MGC. Those questions range from the straightforward, such as how will the marketing relationship work, to the more complex, like integrated marketing campaigns and how ESPN talent will be utilized to promote ESPN Bet and the products offered by PSI.
PSI had previously announced its plan to launch its new brand and corresponding digital sportsbooks on November 14, and commissioners agreed that the operator was eligible to move forward with this launch in Massachusetts. Commissioners did however raise a number of concerns regarding the lines that will be drawn between ESPN, Penn/PSI, and the ESPN Bet product. To that end, Penn will be submitting policies and procedures to the MGC soon, and company leadership was reminded of the expectations commissioners have for these types of relationships.
Finally, on Wednesday two MGC open meetings were held virtually – the first to set the Commission’s upcoming meeting schedule during an agenda setting meeting. Immediately following, a public meeting was held to consider changes to house rules submitted by Penn Sports Interactive. The changes in large part relate to the sportsbook re-brand to ESPN Bet. Those changes were approved by the Commission by a vote of 5-0.