With Barstool Sportsbook’s Help, PA Shatters Its Sports Betting Record

The arrival of Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sportsbook app in September helped boost Pennsylvania’s legal sports betting to a record $462.8 million wagered during the month, but the newcomer has a long way to go to catch industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings.

Revenue figures released Friday afternoon by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board showed Pennsylvania followed the path of other states that shattered their sports betting records last month. Sportsbooks everywhere, both online and retail, benefited from the NFL opening its regular season to join the COVID era’s unusual mix of NBA and NHL post-season play with MLB games.

The state’s previous high betting volume had been the $365 million of August, which was easily surpassed in September.

That would have occurred even without Penn National’s highly publicized addition, but the $29.9 million in bets it took certainly helped.

The sports volume record highlighted a month in which statewide gaming revenue of all types was $284.2 million, an increase of just over 1% from September 2019. Revenue from iGaming sites also set a record, at $57 million, surpassing August’s $55.9 million.

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Barstool placed third in the state despite fewer days

Barstool’s online/mobile handle of nearly $30 million came from just 16 days of operation during the month, the first three days of which were a test period open only to invited users instead of the general public.

Its take in roughly half a month compared to $168 million for FanDuel and $116.5 million by DraftKings in the entire month. Percentage-wise, that amounted to FanDuel claiming 40.5% of the state’s $414.1 million online handle and DraftKings taking 28.1%. Barstool managed a third-place finish despite its limited operation, as its 7.2% share exceeded that of seven other sites in the state.

Combined, the online sites claimed 89.5% of betting handle in the state. The retail handle of $48.7 million in September was more than $5 million higher than the month before.

Unlike FanDuel and DraftKings, which Penn National has targeted as the major operators it wants to compete with, the Barstool Sportsbook site has no broadcast advertising to promote it. Penn National is relying instead on its partner, Barstool Sports, drawing customers to the site through its popular website and social media, most notably the posts by company founder Dave Portnoy.

Barstool and DraftKings both lost money

Penn National reported in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing after launch that the site attracted 30,000 Pennsylvania downloads and $11 million in betting handle in its first four days.

What the site is not doing yet for Penn National is making money. As many online sportsbooks do, it provides a welcome deposit bonus and initial risk-free bets to attract new customers. Its betting incentives added up to $2.2 million in promotional credits given away in September, which are not taxed, and the site reported a $2.8 million loss of taxable gross revenue for the month. Even without the credits, the new app reported a loss of $655,685.

It was not unique in losing money, as DraftKings also reported a gross revenue loss of $1.2 million in September after giving away $2.3 million in credits.

Overall, the state’s 10 online and 12 retail sportsbooks had positive taxable revenue of $6.3 million for the month, which was actually less than revenue last September from fewer sites.

Online casino gaming stronger than ever

The 1.1% increase over last September’s overall gaming revenue in the state from all types — sports wagering, casino gambling, iGaming, fantasy sports, and truck stop video terminals — marked the third straight month that Pennsylvania surpassed comparable revenue from a year ago.

And again, that was despite a notable drop in casino visits and play, tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions the 12 casinos are operating under in occupancy limits, social distancing, and the ability of customers to smoke and consume alcohol on the casino floor.

Retail slots revenue dropped 16.4% from the year before to $154.7 million statewide, and table games play was similarly down 16.2% to $59.2 million in revenue.

Those were offset by the continued strong play of casino-type games online at 12 sites now in Pennsylvania.

Their combined record $57 million in revenue came via $39.9 million from slots, $14.7 million from tables, and $2.4 million from the one online poker site, PokerStars.

The online poker revenue was down from $2.7 million in August. Meanwhile, live poker was just returning Friday to two of the state’s casinos, Mohegan Sun Pocono and Mount Airy Casino Resort, with other casinos expected to reopen their poker rooms soon under new gaming board guidelines.

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