West Virginia Athletic Commission Investigating Barstool Sports’ Canseco Fight At Hollywood Casino

Written By Chris Imperiale on February 16, 2021 - Last Updated on April 26, 2021

The recent fight put on by Barstool Sports and Rough ’N Rowdy featuring Jose Canseco is now under investigation.

According to a report from PlayMichigan, the chairman of the West Virginia state athletic commission, Leon Ramsey, said there is an investigation underway.

He told PlayMichigan:

“I think everybody was expecting a better fight, and then something like this [happens]. Of course, I feel it would need a little further looking into, for sure.”

Dave Portnoy, the fight’s promoter and founder of Barstool Sports, called out the former MLB star Canseco on Twitter, claiming he took a dive in the fight.

Canseco fought Barstool intern “Billy Football” at the Rough ’N Rowdy 13, which took place at the Hollywood Casino.

The West Virginia casino is owned by Penn National, which also owns a sizable portion of Barstool.

Penn’s partnership helped launch the Barstool Sportsbook, which is live in both the Michigan and Pennsylvania sports betting markets.

Michigan bettors were permitted to wager on the fight through a special from Barstool Sportsbook.

While the online sports betting app refunded bets following Canseco’s controversial defeat, this is not how the new sportsbook wants to be making headlines.

Main event was over in about 10 seconds

Barstool Sportsbook offered betting odds for the Barstool-branded Rough ’N Rowdy 13. It allowed customers to put action down on either Canseco or Billy Football to win at odds of +400.

The market was available only for Michigan bettors and was capped at $10.

All of the money from losing wagers was going to Portnoy’s Barstool Fund, created to provide financial assistance to small businesses needing help around the country.

When the fight was over in about 10 seconds, the sportsbook sent out a message over social media. It paid everyone who took Billy Football their full winnings while voiding all Canseco bets and giving a $10 refund to those bettors.

It should be noted that Barstool also charged $20 to view the fights and that no refund was provided for that.

The fight was sanctioned by the Mountain State’s athletic commission, and the Michigan Gaming Control Board approved its betting markets.

The Rough ’N Rowdy events are sanctioned on an event-by-event basis, and there aren’t any additional cards planned.

Things surrounding the fight heated up when Portnoy took to Twitter to exclaim that “Jose 100% took a dive.”

He also mentioned that Canseco would take home a total of over $1 million for the night, thanks in part to the record number of pay-per-view purchases.

Portnoy tweeted, “We paid half up front and he got double if he won. We thought that would ensure he’d fight. We were wrong.”

The event is held in the state each year and was originally known as a Welch tradition. Barstool acquired Rough ’N Rowdy in 2017.

Implications for WV sports betting

This fight is raising questions for plenty of reasons.

Portnoy addressed the fact online that he thought Canseco lost the fight on purpose. He did so while owning the company that held the event and the online sportsbook that accepted wagers for it.

The fight is currently being investigated in WV because it was held in the state and sanctioned by the state’s athletic commission.

The only bets that were knowingly taken on this market were through Barstool Sportsbook in Michigan. The operator’s Pennsylvania app didn’t have access.

It’s unclear right now if the Hollywood Casino or any other land-based sportsbooks took bets on the fight.

Although most of the main event didn’t go as planned, there was somewhat of a silver lining. Penn National Gaming decided to donate the original amount wagered on Canseco to Barstool’s charity.

A PNG spokesperson, Jeff Morris, gave a statement to PlayMichigan. He said:

“At the conclusion of the title fight, it appeared that the losing fighter was either injured or did not participate in good faith. Regardless of which was the case, the Barstool Sportsbook determined the wager was not appropriate to remain as originally graded and immediately voided all losing wagers, paid out winning wagers, and matched losing wagers with a donation to the Barstool Fund.”

While it seems there wasn’t a whole lot of damage created in terms of refunding bets, there is plenty to sort out. The WV investigation will determine what type of black eye this might have for legal sportsbooks in WV, Michigan and around the country.

Photo by Al Behrman / The Associated Press
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale is currently the Managing Editor of Catena Media's US online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the Managing Editor of PlayWV, covering the sports betting and online casino industries in the Mountain State. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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