On January 29th, 2020, regional gaming operator Penn National Gaming purchased a 36% stake in Barstool Sports. Penn National operates 43 properties across 19 states and Canada, primarily servicing customers in their 50s. With the impending legalization of sports betting in most states, this was a strategic move designed to tap into Barstool’s massive audience of loyal millennial and Gen Z supporters.
When the Penn/Barstool deal officially went live, Penn CEO Jay Snowden outwardly raved about the customer acquisition value that the partnership brings.
“…With 66 million monthly unique visitors, 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.”
If there’s one thing that Barstool founder Dave Portnoy knows how to do, it’s capture attention. Even better, he’s an expert at retaining this attention and monetizing it. As the attention economy continues to flourish, this is a very valuable skillset. Over the last 20 years, Barstool has amassed a raving audience of 66 million “Stoolies,” many of whom live and die by Barstool’s content and values. Partnering with a massive casino operator was the perfect move for Barstool to take its business to the next level. Stoolies already love watching sports and watching the Barstool employees bet on them, so why not create a platform where the Stoolies can bet themselves via a Barstool branded sportsbook?
This was the idea from the start and after a three-day test period the Barstool Sportsbook app officially launched in Pennsylvania on September 18th.
Quickly after launching, the app became the number one sports app on the Apple App Store. On September 24th, Penn announced that the app had already been downloaded over 180,000 times nationwide. As expected, Barstool built and the Stoolies came, smashing the single day and weekend launch numbers of competitors like FanDuel and DraftKings.
It’s important to note that although this number is mind-blowing, not all of these downloads are monetizable…yet. Only 35,000 downloads (between soft and hard launch) took place in Pennsylvania. Of those 35,000, over 12,000 were first-time depositors (FTDs) who helped the app to rake in over $11 million in bets in the first four days.
Like many other sportsbooks and the nine other online competitors in Pennsylvania, Barstool Sportsbook offers standard and live wagering options such as multi-sport and team parlays, spreads, moneylines, futures, round robins, teasers and prop bets. But in typical Barstool fashion there are a few additions that make it stand out:
Lastly, the app has a “Move the Line” scroller that allows users to buy and sell points on the spread by using a scroller button.
Since the announcement of the Penn deal, digital sportsbook operators have taken notice of Barstool’s playbook. Acknowledging the value behind having a media icon as the face of your brand, competitors like FanDuel, DraftKings, and MGMBet have raced to ink partnership deals or relationships with notable names. Within the last month, FanDuel has announced a partnership with ex-Colts punter, ex-Barstool employee and current media star Pat McAfee, DraftKings announced that well-known gambler Michael Jordan would be a special advisor to the board, and BetMGM hired Jamie Foxx as the face of the “King of Sportsbooks” campaign.
I found this last one confusing considering most people wouldn’t traditionally associate Jamie Foxx with sports gambling. This could be a play to appeal to the African American demographic, as Dave Portnoy’s and Pat McAfee’s audiences have historically skewed predominantly white. I can’t confirm that this logic is behind the partnership, but if so, it would make a lot of sense.
At the time of the Penn/Barstool partnership announcement, Penn’s stock sat at around $25 per share. Prodded by Dave Portnoy aka Davey Day Trader’s obsessive promotion of the stock, it jumped to $38.28 in February, only to plummet to $4 during the peak of the coronavirus downturn.
This is the part where I start to tear up for foolishly not investing despite writing about how incredible of a company Barstool is.
Since its March low, Penn stock has skyrocketed to a 52-week high of over $76 per share. Since that high, it’s settled to slightly under $70. Play your cards right and you can retire off of a trade like that.
With the bulk of its downloads coming outside of Pennsylvania, Barstool is successfully expanding its market, while also building market share in the state of Pennsylvania. Early reports indicate that it’s already snapped up low double digital market share which is expected to grow with time. With its first full month of earnings coming in October, it will be exciting to see how Barstool fares with its competitors. I’m much more of a bettor than a stock advisor, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to not bet against Dave Portnoy. Year after year he promises and delivers in grand fashion.
My prediction(s) by 2030: Dave and Barstool will lead Penn to become the go-to market share leader in both online and in-person sports betting. It will be impossible to go to a casino or stadium without seeing Barstool’s logo plastered somewhere. There will be a Barstool branded stadium.
Let’s see how well this ages.