The Stoolies are set to bet in Illinois.
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) March 9, 2021
The launch was imminent since the Penn National Gaming-owned sportsbook had begun promoting availability to download the Barstool Sportsbook app onto smartphones last week. Illinois will be the third state where Barstool will have an online presence along with Michigan and Pennsylvania. It also has a retail presence in both neighboring Indiana and Colorado but has yet to launch online in those states.
“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.
Barstool’s entrance is the first mobile launch in Illinois since William Hill on Sept. 15, 2020. BetRivers was the first online sportsbook to market in the state on June 18, 2020 followed by DraftKings (Aug. 5), FanDuel (Aug. 28), and PointsBet (Sep. 12).
Barstool’s online skin will be tethered to Hollywood Casino in Aurora, and Barstool Sportsbook will have a retail presence there as well as at the Hollywood Casino in Joliet and Argosy Casino Alton.
Cracking ‘Big 3’ will be a challenge
This Thursday at Noon, the wait is over. #BarstoolSportsbook is going to be live in Illinois. Get excited. First night we're off and running. Will be doing a promo on the Bulls/Sixers game. Lets have a weekend. pic.twitter.com/AoqbvQTkhI
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) March 9, 2021
Barstool has had varying degrees of success in its previous online launches. In Pennsylvania, it has established itself as a clear-cut-yet-distant third choice among 12 options behind DraftKings and FanDuel. In Michigan where 10 mobile operators launched simultaneously in late January, however, Barstool was a competitive third, and has the potential to lead the Wolverine State in handle in an upcoming month.
Illinois poses a challenge similar to Pennsylvania for Portnoy and the “Stoolies,” Barstool’s rabid fan base of social media followers and sports bettors. All five mobile operators are established and three of them — DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetRivers — have cleared $100 million in handle each of the last two months.
DraftKings has begun to distance itself as the leader despite launching two months after BetRivers, and generated nearly $194 million in handle in December as part of the overall total of $491.7 million — generated exclusively online as the eight retail sportsbooks were closed as part of COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Barstool’s entrance will garner instant attention and bettors. Already a self-made marketing machine via social media and recent philanthropic efforts through The Barstool Fund, Portnoy does not need to saturate the airwaves in the Chicago market like the other sportsbooks have done dating back to even before the first legal bets were accepted exactly one year ago Tuesday prior to the pandemic shutdowns.
“Dan ‘Big Cat’ Katz started Barstool Chicago in 2012 and has worked with Chief, Eddie, Carl, and ‘White Sox’ Dave to develop a tremendous following across the state by covering all things Windy City through daily blogs and social media content, including the immensely popular ‘Red Line Radio’ podcast,” Snowden added. “As the only gaming operator with a fully integrated sports media and entertainment partner, our customers in Illinois will now be able to engage with these Barstool personalities through the online Barstool Sportsbook and enjoy their unique take on Chicago sports.”
The IGB’s sports betting revenue report for January is expected in the coming days, and will include those retail books up and running. It appears Illinois will clear $500 million in handle for the first time. It may take some time for Barstool to settle into the state, but it should help Illinois challenge Pennsylvania for the No. 3 spot in national monthly handle reports behind New Jersey and Nevada.
More mobile books on the way?
Barstool’s entry also could be the first of three more options for Illinois bettors in the near term. Both BetMGM and Unibet have been in the Illinois Gaming Board’s applicant queue for Management Services Provider licenses since last September and November, respectively, and there appear to be landing places for both.
As part of its tie-in to Boyd Gaming, BetMGM is expected to become the mobile skin of Par-A-Dice Casino, where FanDuel had launched prior to officially moving its license earlier this month to Fairmount Park — where work is underway to transition to a racino. Unibet is expected to be the online skin of the Argosy Casino Alton as part of a partnership reached in September between Kindred and Penn National Gaming.
The IGB has a scheduled meeting Wednesday, but no licensee approval votes were listed on the agenda published Monday.
Barstool’s launch means three of the six mobile books available in Illinois — DraftKings and BetRivers are the others — will have odds furnished by Kambi.