Friday Four-Pack 8.25.23
Betts is back. Lots of MA betting news. Travers Weekend!
Finishing up today’s Four-Pack from one of my favorite places on Earth - the morning workouts from Saratoga Race Course.
Even on a gray, cool morning like Friday, there’s something about the sights and sounds that make you feel alive. It’s good for the soul, especially if you got your butt kicked at the windows the day before. Or so I’ve heard
If you find yourself at the track, make every attempt to get out here in the morning. It’s free. You can bring your own coffee. It’s worth the earlyish wake-up call.
Happy Travers Eve, everyone. Time for the rest of today’s Four-Pack.
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On the return of Mookie Betts to Boston…
Seems like this one still stings for Red Sox fans.
Mookie Betts is back in town with the Dodgers this weekend. Almost four years after Betts was shipped to the Dodgers as part of the Sox “new approach,” Betts’ new team is 12 games up in the NL West and headed to the playoffs with a good shot to win the World Series. The Dodgers are the current 4-1 second choice to win it all, behind just the juggernaut Braves.
His former team is 68-60, fighting for a Wild Card, while not really resembling anything like a true World Series contender.
I defended the Red Sox at the time of the trade because I believed there was no way Betts was signing here long-term thanks to his contract demands. I’d still defend it today - it’s just the half dozen or so moves since then that have the Red Sox in their current position that are hard to reconcile.
Betts is just one of a handful of capital S ‘Stars’ that have moved off their team in the last few years. Betts, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady top that list, but there are so many more.
The impact seems to be greatest in the NBA, where a player can wake up and Tweet (X?) that he wants out and that’s that. Nothing you can do.
WIP and CBS Sports Radio host Jack Fritz asked the question about the NBA last week- Can it survive if it’s more of a “national” sport where people follow the stars more so than the local teams?
I actually think that might end up being a question for all sports.
Alex Reimer wrote about Gen Z (ages 9-24, yes I had to look that up) and how dispassionate they appear about sports.
Only 23% of Gen Zers say they’re passionate sports fans, compared to 42% of millennials, 33% of Gen Xers and 31% of baby boomers. Even more concerning, 27% of Gen Zers said they dislike sports altogether, compared with just 7% of millennials, 5% of Gen Xers and 6% of baby boomers.
Sure, there are more options for Gen Z now, but you have to wonder if part of that lack of passion has to do with the constant movement of stars off of teams.
I hate to be all Darren Rovell, but I see it in my own kids. Access to watching any player they want on YouTube, or playing with any player they want in ‘MLB The Show’ is a much different sports fandom than I had growing up. They’re not stuck with just seeing the Red Sox play every night. They pretend they’re Elly De La Cruz or Shohei Ohtani in the backyard playing wiffle ball (and destroying the grass).
I was happy to be a right-handed Phil Plantier on the mean wiffleball streets of Pepperell, MA.
There will be hundreds of Mookie Betts tee-shirts and jerseys at Fenway this weekend, most of them still in Red Sox colors.
Reminders that if the FREAKIN’ BOSTON RED SOX can’t keep a player like Mookie Betts, then being a ‘loyal’ fan of a team will become increasingly more difficult as star player movement becomes more prevalent.
Does this make any sense? Am I just late to this? Comment below and let me know.
On the future of Prize Pick in Massachusetts…
This was eye-opening.
Last week, the Mass Gaming Commission released the June 2023 Fantasy Sports revenue numbers for Massachusetts. I believe this is the first time they’ve done this - usually, it’s been strictly a sports betting report.
Gotta say - I was floored by that Prize Pick number - $2.9 MILLION. In June alone.
For those who don’t play, Prize Pick offers customers the chance to parlay player props. Over on a pitcher’s strikeouts. Under on birdies for a golfer. That’s really all it is.
They’re able to operate as a DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) site. And maybe by definition, there is a skill involved to hit long-shot, multi-leg prop parlays…but boy it does feel just like sports betting.
And they’re doing very well - to the tune of that $2.9 million.
That’s why some of the big guys are taking notice.
FanDuel Head of State Government Relations Cesear Fernandez spelled it out recently.
“There are companies today posing as fantasy-sports operators, and they are running illegal sportsbooks,” Fernandez said.
Along with FanDuel, states like Wyoming have also taken notice. This is the cease and desist they sent Prize Pick.
“The Wyoming Gaming Commission became aware that your business offers gambling on sporting events to Wyoming residents,” both letters read, “Specifically, your business purports to offer fantasy sports contests but, in reality, the offering appears to fall under the exact definition of “sports wagering” as defined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 9-24-101(a)(xii). This offering may violate Wyoming’s gambling laws found inWyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 6-7-101 through -104, §§ 9-24-101 through -106, and Wyoming Gaming Commission’s Online Sports Wagering Rules, Chapters 1 through -9.”
The company says they are working towards a solution.
In some states, Prize Pick and UnderDog (they also have pick’em type props) have already changed what they do and don’t offer.
I bring all of this up to say this - I will be shocked if Massachusetts does not follow suit and tell Prize Pick they need to make changes.
The MGC has been very conservative in its approach here with sports betting. Everything from the over-the-top scrutiny of Barstool/Penn to changing the laws on advertising: Massachusettes is the only state that requires “21 and over” disclaimers on sports betting signage in sporting venues.
The MGC has already tipped its hand a bit. From Todd Grossman, MGC interim director.
“I just wanted to note that we are certainly aware of this issue, and we’re in the process of reviewing it. … it’s certainly an issue that the commission may need to address directly itself.”
So you have a DFS site that allows sports betting types of games without the additional scrutiny of the MGC.
Yeah, it’s just a matter of time before the MGC comes calling.
You’ll still be parlaying player props I’m sure - but you’ll be doing it on an actual sports betting site.
One other Massachusetts gambling story of interest - the proposed “biggest sportsbook in the world” is very much in doubt with Cesears pulling out of its deal with Raynham Park. Bill Speros has the details.
On a couple of Boston media notes…
A week late on this (okay maybe two), but I liked hearing Rich Keefe get a shot in the Red Sox Radio booth. He added some energy and humor - good things on a baseball broadcast. BUT… did you really need Duke Castiglione in there as well to form a three-man booth? It came across like “Well, maybe Rich won’t be good we better get Duke in there with his dad, too.” Maybe I’m projecting how I’d feel. The chemistry was okay, but I’d have rather heard just Joe and Rich or Will Flemming and Rich.
I think the unhealthy amounts of “MLB The Show” they play has a lot to do with it, but my boys are very into baseball right now, as noted above. So we watched much of the Sox/Yankees Sunday on NESN. And it’s become painfully obvious that Lou Merloni should be the guy with Dave O’Brien full-time. Good chemistry, honest takes, ex-player insight.
I think NESN likes rotating guys in the booth as a cost-saving measure, but to me, the choice is pretty clear. Dave and Lou full-time.
Have to wonder if WEEI is thinking the same thing and trying to lock up Lou for radio.
Something to watch this fall.
On Saturday’s Travers Stakes…
Quick top-line thoughts on the best race of the summer.
#1 Forte - Two year-old champ back in good form. Horse to beat for sure, but the rail and the price no bargain.
#2 Arcangelo - Very confident training heading into this with no races since the Belmont. Javier Castellano picking this one over Mage is worth noting. Castellano has won SIX editions of this race.
#3 Tapit Trice - Has cost me lots of money this year, so trying not get sucked into the “blinkers will help focus this horse” feeling I have. Will be coming late.
#4 Mage - That Haskell was a hell of a prep. As fast as anyone in here and this has been the target for months. Flavien Prat gets the ride with Luis Saez hurt.
#5 National Treasure - Ensures a pace, right? I can’t see him getting the distance, but people said the same about West Coast and he went gate to wire. My last decent Travers hit.
#6 Disarm - My heart says this is the play. My brain says trainer Steve Asmussen is 0-12 blinkers on in graded stakes the last five years. Of those 12, only a few ran faster with blinkers. Legit torn.
#7 Scotland - Can he be VE Day 2.0? That’s the only Curlin Stakes winner I remember being a real factor in the Travers. Has run as well as a few in here but has not faced the top level of competition. Fast horse that is going to be a price.
Thankfully, I have time to do final selections. We’ll have full-card picks for Travers Day and a Travers conversation with the great Matt Bernier here tomorrow.
That will be over in StackCapping so you’ll want to be subscribed there.
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Gotta go write up Saratoga for Friday. We’ll get that out in a few.
Thanks for reading and sharing.