Many in the US are questioning whether or not US gambling regulators are doing enough to oversee the online gambling industry, but Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy took to Twitter on Wednesday to claim state regulators “operate with no impunity.”
Portnoy levied the criticism after Penn Entertainment, which completed its acquisition of Barstool earlier this year, terminated Barstool Sports personality Ben Mintz after he uttered a racial slur while rapping along with the lyrics of a song on his show Wake Up Mintzy.
Portnoy fired up one of his “emergency press conferences” and posted a five-minute video explaining Mintz’s termination. He was the messenger despite the repeated insistence by Penn that Portnoy is not an employee of the company.
Portnoy said he advocated on behalf of Mintz along with Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini and Barstool personality Dan Katz, but Penn was insistent the only option was to let Mintz go.
“Penn operates in a world that we don’t operate in. They are highly regulated by the government. They’re issued licenses for gambling that just as easily as they’re issued, they can be pulled back. And for anybody who has followed any of the states and Penn trying to get legalized and things like that, one thing is clear: A lot of people hate my guts. They f****** hate me. They hate Barstool. They look for any lever and excuse anything to cause problems for us and pull the licenses,” Portnoy said.
With Barstool fully under the Penn banner, the scrutiny the company faces is on the rise. One of the conditions of Barstool Sportsbook’s licensure in Massachusetts was a full investigation by gaming regulators into the media side of the operation.
Portnoy said that Penn was transparent since the takeover that there was a zero-tolerance policy now that the company is fully part of Penn. Nonetheless, Portnoy was adamant that this was the wrong decision and said in the video that he told Penn CEO Jay Snowden that the company risks alienating the Barstool fanbase, as the company built its brand on a very pro-free speech stance, even when that speech drew immense criticism.
“The board is doing what they have to do to protect Penn Entertainment,” he said. “I still f****** disagree with it.”
Portnoy was also ready and eager to challenge any regulators that might punish Penn or suspend any license as a result of the incident.
“If this was me and a state wanted to pull a license because of this, I’d put it on blast a hundredfold and I’d be like, ‘This is what we’re dealing with?’ And our crowd would rally and become stronger.”
Portnoy said Snowden cautioned such a response would only spur other regulators to take action. Many outspoken fans of Portnoy have taken to social media to express their frustration over the decision.
Snowden was asked about the issue during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Thursday. He declined to comment on personnel issues publicly, but did say “We felt like we dealt with it appropriately.”
After the earnings call, Penn stock fell over 10%. In addition to the controversy around Mintz, the company also reported revenues slightly below projections for the quarter.