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Massachusetts regulators granted Barstool Sportsbook’s parent company a temporary mobile sports betting license Wednesday, clearing the operator to start taking bets as early as this March.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission granted the license after several lengthy public discussions that began last month. The commission’s 5-0 vote came with stipulations that Penn prohibits anyone under 21 from attending live Barstool events, among other requirements.

License details

The operator must pass a host of other testing requirements and other mandates, but Wednesday’s vote removes the biggest hurdle from Barstool taking bets in the Commonwealth. Though there is no firm mobile sports betting launch date, Barstool is expected to join roughly a dozen other sportsbooks taking bets before the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March.

Penn undertook arguably the most thorough public vetting of any regulated US sportsbook. Commissioners grilled Penn executives on the Barstool brand, which Penn will soon have full ownership of, questioning Barstool’s marketing, commitments to responsible gambling and a host of other issues.

Commissioners also pressed Penn officials, including CEO Jay Snowden, about Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy. Snowden said that Portnoy and the Barstool brand function as separate entities under the Penn umbrella, akin to a subcontractor.

Penn began acquiring portions of the Barstool brand in 2020 with full ownership set to complete transfer later this year. The Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based company is the nation’s largest regional brick-and-mortar casino operator and has used Barstool as its primary brand for both retail sportsbooks at roughly two dozen of these properties as well as its mobile sportsbook, which is now live in 15 states.

Key Barstool market

Massachusetts is a pivotal market as Barstool looks to stand out in the crowded US sports betting space.

Portnoy is a Massachusetts native and founded Barstool as a sports gambling-focused print newspaper he handed out personally in Boston beginning nearly 20 years ago. Barstool has focused its player acquisition approach around the company’s personalities including Portnoy and the company has touted its popularity in the region.

Penn also operates one of only three casinos in the state, Plainridge Park. The company is set to open a Barstool-branded retail book at the property later this year.

Barstool has a much smaller overall handle market share than US market leaders FanDuel, BetMGM and Boston-based DraftKings. However, the brand’s personality-driven approach has led Penn to spend far less than its competitors; Barstool expects to spend $12m in promotions and marketing in conjunction with the Massachusetts sports betting launch, Penn officials told regulators during a licensing hearing, which will likely be significantly less than many of its competitors.

During a 2022 earnings call, Snowden said Penn could be among the first US gaming companies to post a profitable quarter in its online casino and sports betting division.

Other Massachusetts sportsbooks

In Massachusetts, Barstool is set to face the aforementioned trio of market leaders as well as Caesars, the nation’s fourth-highest grossing operator by handle.

Massachusetts’ 2022 sports betting law allowed the owner companies of each of the state’s three casinos (Plainridge Park, MGM Springfield and Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor) to partner with two mobile operators. Along with Barstool, Penn will partner with the soon-to-launch Fanatics sportsbook.

Wynn will launch mobile sports betting under its WynnBet brand and has partnered with Caesars for its other slot. MGM will launch BetMGM but has no plans currently for a second partner.

Barstool was the fourth mobile sportsbook approved by Massachusetts regulators, following BetMGM, WynnBet and Caesars. Fanatics could have its sports betting license approved as early as Thursday.

DraftKings and FanDuel will join several other operators expected to earn licensure in the coming weeks. That includes established national brands Bally Bet, PointsBet and Betway.

The other two sportsbooks seeking approval are European gaming giant bet365, which is currently only live in New Jersey and Colorado, as well as micro betting-focused platform Betr, which has not yet launched in any state.

In total, Massachusetts bettors should have access to 12 mobile wagering platforms by year’s end, the most of any New England state.