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Barstool Sportsbook Cleared for Thursday Takeoff in Illinois

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Barstool Sportsbook Cleared for Thursday Takeoff in Illinois
Barstool Sports signage. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images/AFP

Penn National Gaming and its Barstool Sportsbook app officially went live in the great state of Illinois Thursday at noon. The Land of Lincoln is set to become the third state to welcome the mobile Barstool betting app after Michigan and Pennsylvania and will also add to the Sportsbook’s presence in Indiana and Colorado.

Barstool’s Illinois launch coincides with the commencement of one of the biggest annual sporting events on North American soil, March Madness which returns after a one-year COVID-related hiatus. Barstool’s betting app is tethered to Hollywood Casino in Aurora and the company will have a retail presence at the Hollywood Casino in Joliet and Argosy Casino Alton.

“We are extremely excited to launch our online Barstool Sportsbook in Illinois just as the college basketball regular season wraps up and bettors begin their preparations for March Madness,” Penn National President and CEO Jay Snowden said in a statement.

The Barstool Brand

Barstool entered the US legal sports betting universe with no shortage of hype and rightfully so. With 66 million dedicated viewers as well as 8.8 million Instagram followers, almost 5 million on Facebook, and 2.5 million on Twitter nationally, their numbers have only been on the incline, allowing the company to approach elite status within the industry in a short amount of time.

So far, thanks to Penn National, Barstool has gained access to four markets and have done reasonably well in all. In the two markets Barstool has a mobile presence, Michigan and Pennsylvania, they have come in as the #3 provider in each, despite having a whole lot less experience than the established companies ranking ahead of them. Their launch-weekends were characterized by frenzied sign-ups leading to record numbers using their brand.

The competition in Illinois

Illinois currently has just five mobile sports betting operators that Barstool will be up against. Barstool’s challenge is similar to the one in Pennsylvania where the two DFS behemoths hold over 50% of the market share. They are up against established, immensely successful competition that won’t make it easy to gain a healthy market share.

There appears as though there is plenty to go around in Illinois, however. Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois.com, recently remarked that: “No state has made a bigger splash in its first year of regulated sports betting than Illinois.”

December represented the seventh straight months of handle-records for the state with $491.72 million in bets. They just came out with their January figures which represents the eighth straight handle high-water mark with $581.5 million in bets taken in.

Illinois going forward

Illinois seems to be hitting all of the right notes since their legal sports betting launch and word out of the state is that Gov. JB Pritzker has once again extended his executive order allowing for remote registration for mobile betting apps. This after the state’s market launched with an in-person requirement and was perhaps luckily forced to change gears because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Illinois scene could get a whole lot more crowded soon with Barstool’s launch. The state now has six mobile sportsbooks with potentially more on the way. Both BetMGM and Unibet have had their applications into the Illinois market under consideration for some time and could get the go-ahead any time now.

The Illinois legal sports betting industry has been on a serious upward trajectory the last year, and especially since the relaxed mobile betting registration procedure. Barstool Sports only builds on that momentum.

Barstool Going Forward

Launching in a “Top-4” legal sports betting state like Illinois ahead of March Madness is a definite win for Barstool Sportsbook but is just one notch along the road of some much bigger 2021 plans for the company.

Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden said in an earnings call on February 4 that the company hopes to be live in 10 states prior to kickoff of the 2021-2022 NFL season. From the persisting rumors, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Iowa and Tennessee seem to be the next destinations for Barstool.

It is awfully tough to bet against Dave Portnoy when he gets something in his mind. Barstool has already been a huge media success and is poised to become a sports betting giant as well. For those of you unfamiliar with the Barstool brand, get used to seeing the name in legal sports betting circles. They are going to be a force in 2021 and beyond.