On Sept. 9, the first day of the 2021 NFL season, legal sports betting is expected to launch in Arizona, and through NASCAR’s expanded partnership with Penn National Gaming and Barstool Sports, race fans can look forward to new and fun ways to wager on their favorite sport.
Penn, which announced in January 2020 an acquisition of a 36% stake in Barstool for $163 million, was the first of three official sports betting sponsors to sign on with NASCAR, joined later by BetMGM and WynnBET. While the initial Penn/NASCAR deal was inked in February 2020, Arizona represents a new frontier for the partnership.
Sports betting laws vary, often significantly, from state to state. In Arizona, sports betting licenses are granted to sports facilities and are sub-licensed to sportsbook operators. The Phoenix Suns chose FanDuel, the Diamondbacks are going with Caesars, and the PGA Tour tabbed DraftKings.
NASCAR, which owns Phoenix Raceway, site of the Cup Series Championship in November, believes Barstool can help grow betting interest in the sport in Arizona and beyond.
“Barstool is the sportsbook for the every person,” said Joe Solosky, NASCAR’s managing director of sports betting. “Barstool is going to capitalize on getting NASCAR fans to use their sportsbook, and we’re also going to get new fans to watch NASCAR and go to our events because they’re a Barstool fan or ’Stoolie.’ ”
New ways to bet
For NASCAR fans and bettors, Barstool plans to roll out a suite of new wagering options.
Most prominently, Penn promises to feature NASCAR in “Barstool Exclusives,” the first tab listed on the betting app. The section includes odds boosts and the opportunity to bet with or against the picks of Barstool personalities.
“The Barstool Exclusives section is where we put two things. We put our odds boosts there, and we also put content that you can’t get anywhere else,” Jeff Kaplan, head of finance and strategy for Penn Interactive, told NASCAR.com. “It’s things that come from the minds of the personalities at Barstool, like Dave Portnoy, like Big Cat, Rone and Smitty and many, many others.”
While Kaplan said it’s too early to know the specifics about what wagering options the content and trading teams may come up with, he floated a few possibilities NASCAR fans could see.
“There might be a head-to-head rivalry that’s brewing. You may be able to parlay some races together or some driver performances together,” he said. “One of the things we’ve done in golf that’s worked really well is odds for four golfers to finish in the top 20. I can see us doing something unique like that with NASCAR, where we say here are three drivers and here are the odds that all three finish in the top 10. That’s a fun market, and it keeps your engagement for the entire race.”
Also, cross-sport props, once reserved for the Super Bowl, are becoming part of the everyday sports betting experience. As the Buccaneers vs. Chiefs betting menu listed props such as “Who will have more points: Damian Lillard or the Chiefs,” Barstool bettors may see props or parlays mixing the season-opening NFL game with the Cup race in Richmond two days later.
We’re speculating here, but how about: “Total TDs in Cowboys-Bucs vs. Total cautions in the Federated Auto Parts 400?”
“I think you’ll see a lot of cross-sports stuff from us, because that’s a good way to introduce bettors to new sports,” Kaplan said. “And bettors who bet on multiple sports are more loyal to the sportsbooks.”
And with the expansion of the Penn/NASCAR partnership centered around Arizona, Kaplan added, “I could see us doing some really unique things on Championship Weekend as well.”
Fast forward to Nov. 7 and beyond
After Sept. 9, the next key date for Penn’s Arizona foray is Nov. 7. There won’t be a full-scale retail sportsbook built at Phoenix Raceway by Championship Weekend, but you can be sure Barstool will have a big presence at the track.
While specific plans are TBD, there will be multiple pop-up stations around the facility where Barstool personalities will engage with race fans. Brand ambassadors will walk interested bettors through the registration process and show them how to place a bet on the app.
Even if you don’t happen to be in Phoenix that weekend, you’ll almost certainly hear about Barstool and NASCAR.
“They don’t necessarily have to be physically located somewhere to get people excited,” Kaplan said of Barstool personalities. “They’re shouting from the rooftops online on Twitter, on Instagram, on TikTok. You can engage with that content whether you’re in New Jersey, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, anywhere around the world, it doesn’t matter.”
The possibility of an actual sportsbook being built at some point during the 10-year length of this partnership is real, too.
“As (NASCAR looks) to turn the Raceway into more of a multifaceted venue, where there’s concerts and there’s car shows or different events, as that number creeps up, it becomes more and more attractive for us to think about putting in a fully operational retail sports book,” Kaplan said. “But what we and NASCAR agreed to is we can create an awesome experience for users and fans without that retail sportsbook space.”
Added Solosky, “We want to get this right. This is at least a 10-year partnership, and we’re looking at it that way. … Longer term, the venue has a ton of space in terms of places that could potentially have a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.”
Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports business for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.