After an investigation into whether former MLB player Jose Canseco took a dive in a recent iteration of a Barstool-sponsored boxing series, Barstool Sportsbook steered clear of offering action on Rough N’ Rowdy 14 in Michigan. Michigan sportsbooks weren’t alone in passing on the event, though.
In fact, bettors in any jurisdiction with regulated sports betting would have been hard-pressed to find any markets. It’s a reminder that for emerging sports, the smallest hint of integrity issues can put them down for the count when it comes to wagering. At least for a little while.
The backstory on the lack of Rough N’ Rowdy 14 action
The main story from Rough N’ Rowdy 13, which took place in early February, is the resulting suspension of Canseco. Canseco went down after just 12 seconds of time in the ring against Billy Football at the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. Shortly thereafter, the West Virginia Boxing Commission opened an investigation.
As far as Barstool’s connections to the event, those are two-fold. First, Penn National Gaming operates the Hollywood Casino. PNG owns more than a third of Barstool’s sports betting platform. More tangibly, though, Barstool purchased the boxing series in 2017.
The Commission ultimately suspended Canseco because he did not disclose the extent of existing injuries before the fight. It also moved against him because, in the commission’s opinion, he seemed unable or unwilling to fight.
Canseco maintains he did not intentionally lose the fight. He has shared on social media that he recently had multiple surgeries, however. Canseco is free to appeal his suspension, which other regulatory bodies outside WV intend to respect.
For the boxing series, though, the damage is already done, regardless of whether Canseco lost his fight on purpose. When Rough N’ Rowdy 14 went on this past Friday, no MI sportsbooks offered betting markets for any of its fights.
Books nationwide keep action in the corner
The lack of action was the case in Illinois and Pennsylvania as well, where Barstool also operates. This wasn’t because of regulatory prohibition, however. Gambling regulators in both IL and MI have approved the boxing series for wagering.
Rather, sportsbooks around the country chose to pass on the event. It might be some time before they reverse course, too. Even though the WV commission cleared the event’s promoters of any wrongdoing, the optics of what played out were poor.
Integrity issues can be costly for sportsbook operators. Barstool voided all the bets on the Canseco fight. Even bettors that would have lost their wagers got their money back. Winning wagers were also paid out, meaning the event was a total loss for the book.
Beyond simply having to refund wagers on compromised events, the situation can also lead to bettors shying away from placing wagers in the future. Additionally, it can lead to secondary regulatory issues.
For those reasons, sportsbooks err on the side of caution when it comes to booking events. The actions of Canseco may end up costing the sponsors of the Rough N’ Rowdy series much more than what he was paid to enter the ring. It certainly did in the short term, at least.
PlayMichigan’s requests for comment from Penn National Gaming on Rough N’ Rowdy markets were not returned Tuesday.