Ameristar Black Hawk Makes Foray Into Sports Betting Ahead Of Barstool Rebrand

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At some point next month, Barstool Sports plans to roll out its highly anticipated mobile sports betting app in a launch that could have major implications for the Colorado marketplace and the industry as a whole.

But with three professional sports leagues resuming play in recent weeks, Ameristar Black Hawk Casino could ill-afford to wait any longer to make its retail sportsbook debut. Owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties and operated by Penn National Gaming, Ameristar Black Hawk opened a temporary retail sportsbook July 23. Ameristar Black Hawk, which once held the title of largest casino in the state, will likely receive a considerable boost upon the launch of the Barstool app. In February, Penn National completed its previously announced acquisition of a 36% interest in Barstool Sports for approximately $163 million.

“We want to make sure that the experience we’re building really supports and enhances that Barstool brand,” Ameristar Black Hawk General Manager Sean Demeule told COBets.com. “We want to make sure we give people a great reason to come to Black Hawk.”

Temporary sportsbook

While Ameristar Black Hawk reopened in mid-June, the casino has still been forced to adhere to extensive protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the reopening, table games at Ameristar Black Hawk and others throughout Gilpin County have remained closed. With a strong correlation between sports betting and table play, the closures have impacted foot traffic at a number of sportsbooks around the state.

As the casino makes progress with the construction of a Barstool branded retail book inside the property, Ameristar operates a temporary sportsbook with four betting windows, Demeule said. The casino also has about 20 sports betting kiosks inside the venue, providing a quick method for customers to place wagers. Demeule expects the permanent book to be completed in the fall around the same time the mobile app goes live. Ameristar has also invested a considerable amount of money in a robust audio-visual package for the new retail sportsbook, he added.

Since the return of sports, a large number of bettors have leaned toward the Colorado-area teams, Demeule said. As the Colorado Rockies raced out to an 8-3 start, odds on the Rockies to win the 2020 World Series have fallen sharply. Two others, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, are among the top choices in their respective leagues to win a championship this fall.

The allure of the Barstool brand

Unlike its local competitors, Ameristar Black Hawk will have the luxury of tapping into Barstool’s expansive database for new customers. Although data on Barstool’s reach in Colorado is not publicly available, the company boasts an audience of approximately 66 million monthly unique visitors. Of that amount, about 48% are men, including a large percentage who fit into the demographic interested in sports betting.

The rollout of the Barstool sports betting app has been eagerly anticipated in industry circles for months. Penn National and Barstool have assembled a team of more than 100 product developers and engineers to work on the construction of app, Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden said in May. The development of the Barstool Sports betting app and the buildout of Barstool-branded sportsbooks at Penn National’s retail casinos will cost an estimated $8-$10 million, Snowden said.

“I think the strength of the Barstool app will encourage a lot of folks to download and use that app,” Demeule said. “At the same time, I think we’re going to have such a compelling place to watch the game that we’re going to get the best of both worlds: a great app with a great name behind it and then a great retail experience.”

Penn National offers sports betting in several states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa and West Virginia. On Thursday, Penn National reported second-quarter revenues of $305.5 million, down from revenues of $1.32 billion during the same period a year ago. Penn National incurred a net loss of $214.4 million, primarily due to the effects of COVID-19, compared with a net profit of $51.4 million during the second quarter of 2019.

During the respective reopening periods through June 30, Penn National properties saw a 33% growth in adjusted EBITDAR (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation and restructuring or rent costs) compared to the prior year, Penn National Chief Financial Officer David Williams said Thursday on the company’s second quarter earnings conference call. A large percentage of Penn National’s properties reopened in May after a lengthy shutdown.

While Penn has opted to delay the launch of the Barstool app until the start of the NFL season, Snowden is encouraged by the beta version of it. Snowden views some of the exclusive betting options available on the app, including the potential for bettors to engage in live contests with Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy as a differentiator in the market.

“We think Barstool’s loyal followers and our existing casino guests will agree that it’s unlike anything on the market today,” Snowden said on the conference call.

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Matt is a veteran writer with a specific focus on the emerging sports gambling market. During Matt's two decade career in journalism, he has written for the New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Reuters and CBSSports.com among others. In his spare time, Matt is an avid reader, a weekend tennis player and a frequent embarrassment to the sport of running.

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