Tuesday’s application hearing at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was arguably the most star-studded yet, with social media star and professional fighter Jake Paul joining the event along with the team from betr, the micro-betting sportsbook.
The meeting came just days after betr soft-launched in Ohio, the first state for the operator. Despite its infancy, the MGC commissioners were very impressed with most of the company’s application for an online sports betting license, partifularly its plans to improve diversity efforts and give back to the community.
What the commissioners did have questions and concerns about was betr co-founder Paul.
The concerns generally fell into two categories. The first was how Paul’s position within the Professional Fighters League (PFL) and how his boxing could impact the integrity of betting on those activities. As of now, betr does not offer wagering on combat sports, but they did not rule out plans to add that down the road.
Paul’s active status in the PFL troubles MGC
When assessing the idea that betr might offer PFL betting on fights Paul is not involved in, Commissioner Bradford Hill observed, “it doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Hill acknowledged MMA is different than the more traditional sports leagues, but couldn’t help but compare the situation to the NBA.
“If Lebron James, for example, was a part of a major company that did sports betting, there’s no way the NBA would be letting them play under their rules and regulations,” he stated.
Hill is correct that current athletes in the major leagues are generally prohibited not just from owning sportsbooks but are also limited from both betting on and promoting betting while they are active. The MLB is an exception, as the most recent collective bargaining agreement allows for individual players to promote sportsbooks. Active NHL players have also endorsed betting sites, though none of them have an ownership stake as Paul does.
As means of comparison, Michael Rubin, the CEO of Fanatics, opted to divest from his ownership stakes in professional sports teams the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers in advance of moving forward with plans for Fanatics Betting and Gaming, as league rules stated he could not own a team as well as be CEO of a company with sports betting.
Paul’s long courtroom history another cause for concern
The other area of concern for the commissioners was Paul’s legal history. While some of the pending legal matters, such as the Safemoon cryptocurrency lawsuit and the defamation lawsuit filed by Eddie Heard, were discussed in a confidential executive session, Paul spoke directly about several issues in his past.
Before addressing the incidents one-by-one, he began by trying to frame his worldview for the commissioners.
“The reality of my life as a young and highly visible digital creator was quite different than the normal teenage experience. The best way to sum it up is that everything is exponentially magnified. You live, quite literally, under a microscope, and you certainly get more opportunities, but you’re also taken advantage of more often; mistakes magnified, publicized, and re-publicized. And you become a bigger target for frivolous claims, lawsuits, media headlines, and many, many other interests for competitors and for people to make money off your demise. The public and media also confuse your public persona with your real life, which is quite a lot for any human to balance,” Paul observed.
“I’ve made my share of mistakes and have messed up and have grown up in the public spotlight and done stupid things that from what I’ve learned from but as you will see, these matters generally don’t warrant this level of media coverage and attention,” he added.
Those mistakes and overblown situations include several headline-making incidents. Paul spoke about filming looters and rioters related to the George Floyd protests in an Arizona mall, noting he was only charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
He also briefly addressed the sexual assault allegations from Justine Paradise, calling the allegations completely false and labeling them “blasphemy”.
An incident where he and roommates allegedly trashed a rental home. The owner of the $2.5 million property filed a lawsuit and the matter was later settled “amicably in Paul’s words.
An article discussing the nature of Paul’s content and its potentially predatory practices, Paul reflected on how much he feels he has grown.
“Five years ago, again, the amount of hit pieces and people trying to attack me, it was absurd. But five years ago, I also was a YouTuber. I was 20 years old, not mature, and now, for the past three and a half years, I’ve been a professional athlete. So, you know, gone away from that world. I don’t really know what the article mentions, but I don’t even put out nearly as much content, and again, my focus every day is my training and focusing on my fights.”
While three of the commissioners found the explanations and executive session satisfactory, Commissioners Eileen O’Brien and Nakisha Skinner said they need more information about legal issues to fully form their opinion.
Betr joins FanDuel and BallyBet on the list of untethered online operators who have presented to MGC. BallyBet and FanDuel went through their application meetings with very few hiccups compared to betr. The commissioners will vote on the suitability of all of the untethered applicants once they are done presenting individually.