Massachusetts commissioners review Barstool’s ‘Can’t Lose Parlay’ promotion amid misleading marketing concerns

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is currently undertaking a thorough examination of Barstool Sportsbook’s promotional wager known as “Big Cat’s Can’t Lose Parlay.” This evaluation aims to determine whether the wager’s name, which references Barstool Sports personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz’s history as a lousy gambler, violates state laws and regulations prohibiting the marketing of bets as being risk-free.

The “Can’t Lose Parlay” was a regular feature on the popular Pardon My Take podcast, hosted by Katz, since 2019. However, Barstool Sportsbook owner Penn Sports Interactive (PSI) has refrained from using this label in Massachusetts ever since the controversial promotion of a parlay on March 10, which involved four NCAA basketball games and caught the attention of the state’s Gaming Commission.

Under the commission’s sports betting regulations, any form of marketing that is deceptive, false, misleading, or tends to deceive or create a misleading impression is strictly prohibited. This includes any implication that a wager is free of risk, and regulators believe that the bet’s tongue-in-cheek reference to Katz’s history as a lousy gambler might be against its rules.

During an adjudicatory hearing, Jonathan Albano, an attorney representing PSI, presented the argument that the “Can’t Lose Parlay” (CLP) title is intended as a satirical reference to Katz’s reputation as a “loser” and a “terrible, terrible gambler.”

Albano maintained that the promotion should be held to the same legal standards as other consumer products. He emphasized that, within the context of the wager’s long-shot odds and the requirement to win four consecutive bets, no reasonable person would interpret the CLP as an assertion of a risk-free or sure-thing bet.

For his part, Commissioner Brad Hill expressed his concern regarding the term “reasonable consumer,” particularly given that sports betting only recently launched in Massachusetts. Hill highlighted the fact that individuals who are new to betting may not be familiar with Katz’s history or the regular jokes made about his poor gambling track record.

In light of this, he stressed the importance of ensuring the protection of individuals who may be more susceptible to making impulsive decisions or who may have underlying issues related to responsible gaming or mental health.

Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein

The commissioners are set to carefully deliberate on the matter in a private setting and subsequently issue a detailed written ruling. Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein emphasized that the potential outcomes of this review encompass a range of possibilities that could potentially deal a major blow to Barstool in the state.

These may include the issuance of civil administrative penalties, the imposition of specific conditions on PSI’s license, the suspension or revocation of PSI’s license, reprimands, and the assessment of fines.

The ultimate decision made by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regarding the “Can’t Lose Parlay” promotion could have significant implications for the marketing practices of sports betting operators within the state. As the commission works to ensure strict compliance with regulations, operators are likely to take notes from what happens with Barstool.