Barstool Sports’ Following Is Key To Penn National’s Sports Betting Plan

Posted on July 15, 2020 - Last Updated on July 14, 2020

Penn National Gaming and its partnership with Barstool Sports might just be the next heavyweight contender for the sports betting throne.

From live casino events to interactive personalities on its sports betting app, these are just a few ideas Penn National CEO Jay Snowden mentioned during the kickoff of the 2020 SBC Digital Summit North America.

Penn CEO talks Barstool partnership

During the half-hour talk moderated by Roger Gros, managing editor of GGB Magazine, Snowden touched on several gaming insights highlight by the Barstool partnership.

“We obviously spent a lot of time doing diligence on Barstool, and we got really comfortable making an investment in Barstool,” Snowden said. “You have to keep in mind a couple of really important factors. One, Dave Portnoy and the folks at Barstool, they’re sort of a meshing of SportsCenter, 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.”

Part of the appeal of the Barstool brand, according to Snowden, was the personalities associated with the company.

“One of the things we were missing, from a sports betting perspective at Penn, was a brand to lead with and an audience to market to,” Snowden said. “We have great casino brands, but our audience and customers tend to skew older 45+, and the sports bettors tend to skew younger, 21 to 45 years old.”

One of the reasons DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook became so successful was their ability to convert their extensive user base of daily fantasy sports players into sports bettors. It’s why they are the leaders in almost every sports betting market.

According to Snowden, Penn needed to partner with a company that had a “strong, relevant brand” and “a big audience.”

“Barstool was interested in going all-in with us. They checked a lot of boxes for us, and we were looking to leverage their database of followers. It really was complementary,” he said.

How Penn National–Barstool Sportsbooks could function

Penn National will lead with the Barstool brand from an online sports betting perspective. Additionally, the company is in the process of converting its current sportsbooks into Barstool branded sportsbooks.

For years, the casino industry has been looking for new and innovative ways to bring customers back to its properties. With the emergence of mobile sports betting and online casinos, the days of going into a property to play table games and slot machines or even place a bet were thought to have been a thing of the past.

Penn National plans to bring customers to casinos by having Barstool personalities host events. Most will center around things like March Madness and the Super Bowl.

“Online, what we’re planning to do is integrate the personalities into our app. You can go online to see what Dave Portnoy is betting on or to bet against him. We feel we can do a lot of personality content where you go to be entertained not just to bet on sports,” Snowden said.

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Evolution of Barstool

Snowden slightly touched on the evolution of Barstool, including the more controversial aspects of founder Dave Portnoy.

Here is what Snowden had to say:

“Portnoy founded this company in 2003, he’s been at it for 17 years and everything that he has said has been on video for the last 17 years. I’ve talked to Dave about this extensively, and I think what Dave would tell you, he’s said this publicly, [is] that times change. He looks back at some of the things he did or said in 2008 or 2011 or 2013 that if it were today, he probably wouldn’t have said. It was an attempt at humor, but maybe it missed the mark … But the vast majority of the content they create, it is entertaining, it is fun, it’s funny for their audience, and I think you just always have to keep that in mind. They are entertainers, they are comedians, and I’ve yet to meet or listen to an entertainer or comedian that thinks everything they’ve ever said or done hit the mark when they did it. Looking back, they … cringe a little bit on occasion, given the environment we find ourselves in today.”

The discussion ended with Snowden pointing out how Barstool CEO Erica Nardini helped inject some diversity into the brand.

“It’s a company that when (Nardini) got there, there were 10 or 12 employees, they were all men. Look at the company today, and their executive team is 75% women; most people don’t know that,” he said. “I look at the actions of what they’ve done and what they’ve become as a company, and we got really comfortable that, yes, there’s going to be some videos from years ago that might make you a little uncomfortable because they were edgy and an attempt at humor, but you look at the company they are today and all the progress they’ve made, and we’re very proud to be their partners.”

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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