MA regulators suggest ESPN ad lib was a regulatory violation

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Back in March, ESPN host Rece Davis made a flippant, off-the-cuff remark that could result in a regulatory fine for ESPN Bet operator Penn Entertainment.

Davis called bet “risk-free investment”

During a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting this week, the group’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) brought up the incident where Davis referred to a particular bet as “risk-free”.

During a segment with ESPN Bet analyst Erin Dolan, Davis said the following about Dolan’s recommended bet during the segment:

“Some would call this wagering, gambling. I think the way you’ve sold this; I think what it is, is a risk-free investment.”

Davis would later clarify that he made the comment in jest and clarified the nature of his statement in a post on Twitter.

MGC says comment violated “risk-free” language reg

While Davis nor Dolan are employees of Penn, the IEB nonetheless determined the incident was a breach of the following regulation in the state:

No advertising, marketing, branding, and other promotional materials published, aired, displayed, disseminated, or distributed by or on behalf of any Sports Wagering Operator shall:
(a) Promote irresponsible or excessive participation in Sports Wagering;
(b) Suggest that social, financial, or personal success is guaranteed by engaging in event wagering;
(c) Imply or promote Sports Wagering as free of risk in general or in connection with a particular promotion or Sports Wagering offer;
(d) Describe Sports Wagering as “free”, “cost free” or “free of risk” if the player needs to incur any loss or risk their own money to use or withdraw winnings from the Wager;

The commissioners instructed IEB to investigate and prepare for an adjudicatory hearing on the matter. Commissioner Eileen O’Brien, in particular, has repeatedly asked for more clarity of the “cross-pollination” between Penn and ESPN promoting the app.

Can’t Lose Parlay all over again

Both O’Brien and Commissioner Nakisha Skinner likened the incident to a similar one last year involving Barstool personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz and his branded “Can’t Lose Parlay” that was promoted on Barstool Sportsbook. Almost a year ago, Penn appeared before the MGC for an adjudicatory hearing, defending the promotional bet as satire and arguing constitutional free speech to the five commissioners.

The commission never announced whether there was a formal fine or punishment in the Can’t Lose Parlay incident.