Applications for Massachusetts sports betting licenses are now open. Dozens of hopefuls are lining up, including all the usual national brands but also some newcomers to the space.
Among the latter is BarberTime Media Network. Its founder and CEO, Euan C. Davis, describes it as ” a multimedia social marketing platform that builds brands by harnessing the entrepreneurial abilities of the barbering industry.”
Historically, Black barbershops were community safe havens, meeting places for Black activists, and sources of information. Much of that is still true, but the network based in Boston wants to add “Massachusetts online sportsbook” to that list through BarberTime.com.
To that end, Davis submitted a Notice of Intent Regarding License for Sports Wagering to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). He did so by the due date of Aug. 31.
On the network’s live stream at BarberTime.com, Bonus.com recently saw everything from Black barbers talking about Questlove‘s rumored sensitive scalp to barbers providing help to cancer patients and their families.
That seems to be accomplishing the network’s goal. BarberTime.com describes the network of live streaming shows, radio programs, and more, as having this focus:
Our mission is to get every barbershop to understand that they are a media resource for their community.
So it makes sense that in the MGC application regarding BarberTime.com, Davis answers the question, “Please offer a brief description of the entity’s business, including the type of business it will likely seek to conduct in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” this way:
We deliver digital media to barbershop [environments] via our broadcast social media platform.
If it receives permission to launch a Massachusetts online sportsbook, BarberTime.com will likely have the capability of providing relevant content to its partner barbershops. That way, customers may choose to place bets on BarberTime.com within the state borders.
However, Davis didn’t return Bonus.com‘s requests for comment.
Why Black Representation in Gambling Matters
Its focus on Black culture would make BarberTime a rarity in the gambling space. Even now, it’s not a particularly diverse industry. Historically, it was explicitly discriminatory.
Gambling industry analyst Richard Schuetz tells Bonus.com that in the early 1960s, Las Vegas Strip retail casinos wouldn’t admit Black bettors.
A man appointed as head of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in 1960 worked to change that and during the next six years, Ed Olsen did what he could to dismantle segregation on the Strip, according to Schuetz.
Schuetz wrote in Global Gaming Business Magazine:
During the 1950s, Las Vegas was known by many as the Mississippi of the West. It acquired this moniker because the casinos located there, especially those resorts beginning to define the Strip, practiced segregation.
People of color were not welcome as guests, and should they not understand this rule, the security forces of these establishments would cause them to understand. In the late 1950s, this practice was beginning to attract a bit of resistance. The NAACP began to chip away at this disgusting edifice, and there was an ever-increasing circle of both public and private officials who began working to remove this stain from the state.
Why, even Frank Sinatra and his associates within the Rat Pack are often mentioned in this regard, working to integrate the Strip for many of the Black entertainers who, while they could entertain on the Strip, could not stay there.
Once in office, Olsen worked to “deputize a Black schoolteacher as an undercover agent” of the NGCB, Schuetz said. Once operators walked the gaming agent off of their properties, they were in breach of their licenses.
Word got around, Schuetz said.
Well, today, the Strip is a different place, in small part due to the effort of a simple regulator who had the understanding that regulation can be a tool to accomplish important public policy goals.
BarberTime.com Joins Urban One in Seeking a Black Presence in US Gambling
BarberTime isn’t alone in its goal of bringing Black culture to the US gambling space. Another Black-owned media company, Urban One, is engaged in an ongoing effort to bring the “nation’s only Black-owned casino” to Virginia.
The Silver Spring, Maryland-based media company, which says it is “representing Black America,” presented its proposed One Casino and Resort to Richmond voters in 2021. The proposed $563 million facility would have been the state’s fifth and final retail casino.
However, Richmond voters rejected the proposal in 2021. Then Urban One CEO Alfred C. Liggins III withdrew the referendum from the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot due to a challenge from the Virginia General Assembly.
State legislators included language in the budget they passed three months ago that stopped the vote. They wanted to study whether to put the casino in Petersburg, instead.
Meanwhile, Liggins remains committed to bringing One Casino and Resort to Virginia. He said he would work toward a 2023 referendum in Richmond or “other options like Petersburg, if the opportunity presented itself,” according to an article published on Aug. 4 by WRIC.com.
BarberTime.com Benefits from Black Barbershop History
Black barbershops involved a community working together for change.
Post-emancipation and during segregation, Black barbershops were places to discuss issues of the day. Those issues may have even included gambling.
However, gambling was likely a less dangerous topic than most that were considered there.
As the National Association of Barbers (NAOB) puts it in a February 2022 post, Black barbers first cut the hair of white men during slavery, then shifted to clients of their choice post-emancipation, and ultimately gained formally recognized training in 1934.
Around then, many Black barbers chose to serve Black customers in their barbershops.
However, it didn’t take Tyler Barber College opening in Tyler, Texas, in 1934 for Black barbershops to enter Black culture, NAOB writes.
The NOAB post says:
During this time — and certainly before — barbershops began becoming safe havens that were about more than just getting a haircut or a beard trim. These spaces were for the community, places where Black men and women could discuss social and societal reform, share ideas, and overall, find comradery and community in a time where it was needed most.
During the 1900s, those societal reforms often began with Black barbershop gatherings, NOAB writes.
As Erica L. Taylor wrote when she was with The Tom Joyner Morning Show:
The placement of Black barbershops has been so significant in Black history that legendary authors Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Amiri Bakara, and Richard Wright all made reference to the ‘black man’s sanctuary’ in their works.
Big Money in Gambling and in Hairstyles
NOAB writes that Black barbershops created some of the first Black millionaires in the US:
Though opportunity was what had the initial push toward barbering, wealth popped up as a primary motivator for the profession shortly after.
Black barbershops then became jumping-off points for continued success:
They played an immensely crucial role in the hip-hop scene at the beginning of the 1980s.
The 2002 film Barbershop builds on that premise. The Los Angeles Times says that the Black barbershop didn’t assimilate and, therefore, created a rich environment for hip hop culture.
That culture created wealth, the Times writes:
The hip-hop generation has produced several Black figures on Fortune magazine’s list of the richest people under 40.
Six years later, Davis began publishing the BarberTime magazine.
Davis writes on LinkedIn about the magazine:
Everything in the urban world passes through and often begins in the confines of our Barber/Salons. So ‘BarberTime the Magazine’, brought to you by the trailblazing company BarberTime Hair Designs & Entertainment, is allowing your business to shine in the most lucrative markets a magazine can reach.
Davis founded the more extensive network in 2015.
Now, he’s trying to become an online sportsbook operator. If he succeeds, he’s entering a lucrative field.
Massachusetts Shaping Up to Be a Crowded Market
Like BarberTime.com, potential online sportsbook operators needed to submit their notices of intent by Aug. 31. Massachusetts is slated to launch legal online sports betting later this year or in early 2023.
Unlike BarberTime.com, most of the 36 applicants who specified they offer “an interactive sports wagering platform through a mobile application or other digital platform” are already familiar to US online sportsbook bettors.
For instance, BetMGM Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook are the Big Three among US online gambling operators. FanDuel holds the top spot in US sports betting markets, and BetMGM Casino does so in US online casino circles.
The List of Hopefuls
Among that subset of 36 applicants for Massachusetts online sportsbook operator licenses are:
- 888 (which powers SI Sportsbook)
- American Wagering, Inc., doing business as Caesars Sportsbook
- Bally’s Interactive, LLC (Bally Bet Sportsbook)
- The BarberTime Media Network, Inc. (BarberTime.com)
- Betfair Interactive US, LLC/FanDuel (FanDuel Sportsbook)
- BetFred USA Sports, LLC (OpenBet/SGDigital)
- BetMGM, LLC (BetMGM)
- Betr Holdings, Inc. (Betr)
- Blue Bet USA, Inc. (Clutchbet)
- CG Trading, Inc./Carousel Group (MaximBet)
- Crown MA Gaming, LLC/DraftKings (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Digital Gaming Corporation USA (Digital Gaming Corporation USA)
- FanLogic, LLC (FanLogic.com & FanLogic app)
- FBG Enterprises OPCO, LLC (Bet Fanatics)
- FSST Interactive, LLC /Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe of South Dakota (Licence [sic] Platforms)
- Fubo Gaming Inc. (Fubo Sportsbook)
- G3 Esports, LLC (QRTR)
- GAN Nevada, Inc. (GameSTACK)
- Hillside (New Media Holdings US) Inc. (Bet365)
- Massachusetts NYX Digital Gaming (USA), LLC (Don Best & Sportscast)
- Mohegan Digital, LLC (MoheganSunCasino.com)
- Mojo Interactive, Inc. (Mojo)
- Novibet USA, Inc.
- Penn Sports Interactive, LLC (“PSI”)
- PlayStar Gaming Inc. (PlayStar)
- PlayUp Interactive MA, LLC/Play Up (PlayUp Sports Betting MA)
- PointsBet Massachusetts, LLC (PointsBet)
- PT Services (Delaware) LLC (Playtech One – Sports Wagering System)
- RSI MA, LLC/Rush Street Interactive (BetRivers)
- RW BET MA, LLC (Resorts World Bet)
- Seminole Hard Rock Digital, LLC (Hard Rock Sportsbook)
- Sportradar Solutions, LLC (ORAKO)
- SportsX, LLC (STX)
- Unibet Interactive Incorporated (Unibet)
- Victory Game Challenge, Inc. (easywin.ng, ienjoybet.com)
- WSI US, LLC, doing business as WynnBET
While online sportsbooks can partner with the five land-based gambling establishments in Massachusetts, only seven other mobile sports betting sites will be authorized.
That’s setting up some fierce competition, but BarberTime.com may know how to make the cut(s).