A week after announcing a deal to acquire a stake in digital media brand Barstool Sports, Penn National Gaming Inc. is continuing to increase its visibility among sports fans through a partnership with NASCAR. The pact is NASCAR’s first with a gaming operator and Penn National’s first with a professional sports league.
The linkup is a significant milestone in NASCAR’s foray into the rapidly growing sports gambling landscape, where the amount wagered on stock car racing historically pales in comparison to popular betting sports such as football, basketball and horse racing. Prior to the Penn National deal, NASCAR was one of the last major U.S. sports properties without a league-level casino sponsorship partner.
The deal builds on NASCAR’s existing relationships with both Penn National and Barstool. For over a year, Barstool personalities — including founder and president Dave Portnoy — have worked with NASCAR to produce content focused on the experience of attending races. Barstool also purchased two primary paint schemes last season for driver Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota.
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Scott Warfield, NASCAR’s managing director of gaming, sees the Barstool tie-in as a prime way for NASCAR to build engagement and generate interest in betting among a young, gaming-savvy demographic.
“All three parties are really aligned, and this is an authentic topic for Dave and the Barstool guys and gals given that they are very interested and focused on sports betting,” Warfield said. “It’s really nice that they’ve had a whole year to get to know the sport and learn it and come to our races and invest in teams. So it’s not going to feel forced at all in my opinion.”
NASCAR and Penn National have been in business since the casino operator became the title sponsor of the annual Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, the Hollywood Casino 400, beginning with the 2011 edition. The new agreement extends those naming rights through 2026. In 2012, Penn National opened a Hollywood Casino location at the speedway.
Ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, the two entities will launch a new free-to-play mobile game called NASCAR Finish Line, in which players will compete for a $50,000 jackpot by attempting to accurately predict the winner of each race, along with the highest finishers across six different groupings of six drivers.
Warfield sees Finish Line as an entry point for casual bettors to get a feel for betting on the sport, particularly prior to the launch of Penn National’s mobile betting app, which is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of this year.
“This pretty unique free-to-play game that we’ll be launching has some game mechanics that I think are attractive not just to the core fan, but more importantly maybe, the casual bettor: Seven questions, prize pool and easy to understand as we start to educate as many people about NASCAR and how to gamify it,” he said.
Penn National announced an agreement last month to purchase a 36 percent stake in Barstool, which features a significant amount of content about sports betting, for $163 million. The casino operator, which currently runs 41 facilities in 19 states, plans to apply Barstool Sportsbook brand to its soon-to-launch mobile betting app and its physical sportsbooks.
Last year, NASCAR became one of the last major U.S. sports properties to sign a data partnership, linking up with Genius Sports to provide licensed casino operators with official, real-time competition data and develop new pre-race and in-race wager offerings. Through Genius, Warfield said sportsbooks will be able to take eight new types of in-race bets on NASCAR races beginning this season, such as group winner, stage winner, manufacturer of race winner and over/under for the winner’s car number.
NASCAR has also forged a betting integrity deal with Sportradar AG and has gaming-related content relationships with Action Network and Vegas Stats & Information Network.