After months of talk and incredible anticipation, the Barstool Sportsbook finally went live in the state on Pennsylvania on Tuesday along with the bombast of its controversial founder Dave Portnoy and 66 million dedicated viewers of the previously media-only brand. The sportsbook endured a 3-day test period but has now been signed off on by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, making Barstool Sportsbook the tenth online book available in the bustling Pennsylvania market.
Hollywood Casino in Pennsylvania will serve as the jumping-off point for one of the most anticipated new brands to the US legal sports betting scene. Barstool Sports and Penn National are hoping to take the brand nationally sooner rather than later. Flush with cash and an undeniable confidence, Barstool Sportsbook is looking to become a Heavyweight Champ despite having only one fight so far.
Birth of a Relationship
Penn National, an unquestioned industry leader decided to jump into the pool with Portnoy and Barstool Sports with an enormous $163 million January investment that gave Penn a 36% stake in Barstool Sports. At the time, Penn National’s infusion brought the Barstool brand’s valuation to $450 million.
Penn National had an eye on the 66 million viewers of the site and rightly made a move when the timing was right.
Jay Snowden, President and Chief Executive Officer of Penn National, said at the time of the merger: “We believe the significant reach of Barstool Sports and loyalty of its audience will lead to meaningful reductions in customer acquisition and promotional costs for our sports betting and online products, significantly enhancing profitability and driving value for our shareholders.”
Penn National All-In
Penn National saw a need for their Company to hit the next level in exploding US legal sports betting scene and Barstool looks as if it was their first, second and third choice to do so.
Jay Snowden, President and CEO of Penn National Gaming, at the SBC Digital Summit North America in July that:
“We knew the one thing that we were missing from a sports betting perspective at Penn was a brand to lead with and an audience to market to. We had great casino brands but our audience today tends to skew older – 45-plus – and the sports bettors tend to skew younger – 21 to 45 – so that’s where we started to look at who we might want to partner with and of course we eventually bought Barstool.”
“We’re going to lead with the Barstool brand from an online sports betting perspective,” he said. “We’re also in the process of converting our existing retail sportsbooks inside of our casinos and our sports bars to Barstool branded sportsbooks and sports bars.”
“The Barstool Sportsbook app is the centerpiece of our Company’s omni-channel strategy,” Jay Snowden went on to say in a recent press release.
The Barstool Sportsbook
At first glance, the Barstool Sportsbook looks pretty standard with the usual wagering options and in-game wagering, cross-sport parlays, moneylines, futures, teasers, round robins, and numerous prop bets. Of course, there will be subtle differences on the site itself and unique promotions but it is forces outside the actual book that will attempt to set Barstool apart.
The sports media wing of Barstool is what is going to set it apart in not only Pennsylvania but around the country, once it expands. Dave Portnoy’s presence will also be felt with the attention he brings all by himself. Snowden seemed to point to that when he said:
“We obviously spent a lot of time doing diligence on Barstool and we got very comfortable with making an investment in Barstool. Dave Portnoy and the folks at Barstool are a sort of meshing of Sports Center and Howard Stern and reality TV. It’s a sports media company, but at the end of the day these are entertainers. They create content – they’re comedians.”
In an email sent out by David Portnoy signaled that Barstool isn’t satisfied with stopping with the Pennsylvania market. In that email he said:
“We plan to quickly launch in every state where sports gambling is legal. Just like how we’ve built this company brick by brick we will launch state by state and give each state the attention it deserves.
“Obviously my haters of which there are many are hoping we fail. Well I have an undying faith in the loyalty of our fans that make me believe we will do what we always do and that’s shut up the critics and astound Wall Street with our performance.”
How the Markets Reacted
Penn National, one of the only publicly traded legal gambling providers in the US saw their stock ride upon the opening of their long-awaited barstool Sportsbook in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, the launch day, Penn National Stock opened at $65.44 and ended the day at a 52-week high of $69.77. On Friday, the stock hit $76.62 only to retreat and close at a still-impressive $70.55.
When Will We See Barstool in Other Jurisdictions?
It’s pretty hard to say. Originally Penn National had hoped to have the Barstool Sportsbook ready for Week 1 of the NFL season – that didn’t happen.
Despite the desire for rapid expansion and despite the buzz the product has received since Penn National’s move on Barstool in January, early 2021 seems like the most realistic date to see Barstool Sportsbooks in other states.
Penn National CEO Jay Snowden recently spoke to that realization saying: “What’s more important? Rushing it and getting to some MLB and NBA games in August? Or doing this right, launching it in September when we know it will deliver a great experience, [user interface, user experience] for the end user? We’re in this for the long game.”