It‘s called “Big Cat’s Can’t Lose Parlay,” and Massachusetts gaming regulators are weighing whether bettors understand that the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Barstool Sports personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz’s history as a lousy gambler or if the featured wager runs afoul of state law and regulations against marketing bets as being risk-free.
The “Can’t Lose Parlay” was a regular feature since 2019 on the Pardon My Take podcast that Katz hosts, but Barstool Sportsbook owner Penn Sports Interactive (PSI) has not used the label in Massachusetts since the promotion of a March 10 parlay including four NCAA basketball games was brought to the Gaming Commission’s attention. The commission’s sports betting regulations prohibit marketing that is “deceptive, false, misleading, or untrue, or tends to deceive or create a misleading impression whether directly, or by ambiguity or omission,” or that implies any wager is free of risk.
“We respectfully submit that no reasonable person who saw a parlay with long-shot odds that required a player to win not one, not two, not three, but four bets, or lose the parlay. No reasonable person would have concluded that they were engaging in a risk-free, sure-thing type of bet,” Jonathan Albano, an attorney representing PSI, said during an adjudicatory hearing Wednesday.
Albano said the “Can’t Lose Parlay” (CLP) title is meant as a satirical reference to Katz’s history as a “loser” and “terrible, terrible gambler.” He argued that the promotion should be held to the same legal standard as other products.
“No reasonable member of the public would think that Cap’n Crunch Berries are actually made of berries, or that Froot Loops are actually made with fruit,” he said. “The point I’m trying to convey here is that viewed in context, no reasonable person would take CLP as a factual assertion that this is a risk-free or reduced-risk wager.”
Commissioner Brad Hill said the term “reasonable consumer” raised red flags for him, particularly because sports betting only launched in Massachusetts this year and many people who are new to betting might not be familiar with Katz’s history and regular jokes about his poor gambling track record.
“I believe that yes, there are a majority who would know that this is a joke … the majority, you’re probably right,” Hill said. “But I don’t care if it’s 10 percent. My job is to ensure that 10 percent who has a responsible gaming issue, who has a mental health issue, who is young and doesn’t always make the right decisions when they’re young … Here I am 56 years old, I still don’t make all the right decisions in my life. And certainly, I look back when I was in my 20s and I may have been swayed at that time in my life to make a bet because of something I saw without knowing the history of Big Cat.”
Commissioners will deliberate on the matter in private and issue their ruling in writing. Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said at the start of Wednesday’s hearing that the range of possible outcomes includes the commission deciding to “issue a civil administrative penalty, impose conditions on PSI’s license, suspend PSI’s license, revoke PSI’s license, reprimand PSI and/or assess a fine on PSI.”