In early August, PENN Entertainment announced they were pulling the plug on its affiliation with the Barstool Sportsbook brand. Instead, the company announced they will relaunch their online and retail sportsbooks with the ESPN Bet brand.
The move affects the Ohio gambling landscape more than most. PENN owns two casinos and another two racinos in the state. Additionally, the online version of the Barstool Sportsbook is available to Buckeye State gamblers.
However, nearly two months have passed since the announcement and there are still multiple Barstool-branded retail sportsbooks. The online platform is still an option for bettors as well.
PENN CEO hints at November transition and rebrand
Despite the prevalence of the Barstool brand at two of the four Ohio casinos, PENN Entertainment’s transition from Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN Bet Sportsbook is technically underway.
During a recent earnings call earlier in the month, PENN President and CEO Jay Snowden mentioned the goal was to finish the ESPN Bet rebrand by Thanksgiving. In other words, you could be wagering with ESPN Bet Ohio before purchasing Black Friday specials.
In Ohio, Penn owns the two Hollywood Casinos. One is in Columbus and the other is in Toledo. Both websites still have Barstool Sportsbook references. There are 15 other states where PENN has sports betting licenses.
Hollywood casinos and racinos awaiting word on Barstool-ESPN rebrand
The Penn-ESPN connection was major news for the Ohio sports betting industry. According to Ohio gaming revenue reports, Barstool ranks sixth out of 18 online sports betting operators in Ohio’s lifetime handle and revenue.
With four in-person sportsbooks in The Buckeye State, there is reason to believe rebranding efforts in Ohio may be a priority for PENN. However, at this point, it appears the venues know just as much as we do regarding how this transition will occur.
Mackenzie Fork is the Director of Marketing at Hollywood Casino Toledo. She told PlayOhio that plans to rebrand the sportsbook are still up in the air. There’s still no concrete timeline for it.
“We currently do not have an update as to when this switch will happen. We are anxiously awaiting updates,” said Fork.
In addition to the Hollywood Casinos in Toledo and Columbus, PENN owns Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course and Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway. There are no plans for retooling the Barstool brand yet at any of the four facilities.
Furthermore, the websites don’t have any mention of an ESPN Bet Sportsbook coming. That will likely change once the venues are given the go-ahead from PENN.
ESPN working with PENN on rebranding at retail sportsbooks
PENN CEO Jay Snowden indicated that the transition for both the online sports betting site and any retail locations will take some time. Right now, the main focus is on the online product.
Snowden says that the company wants ESPN to play a role in the transition for retail sportsbooks. However, he did say that there is a possibility that not all of PENN’s in-person betting locations will take on the ESPN branding.
“We’re still working through ESPN. Folks have not had a chance to visit our properties yet. And so we’re going to go through a process,” said Snowden. “There can potentially be some ESPN-branded retail sportsbooks on plan. And if not, we still have what we believe to be best-in-class destinations on the retail sports betting side and sports bars connected to almost all of them.”
With the expectation of the online betting product launching around Thanksgiving, it is reasonable to expect any changes at PENN’s retail betting locations to come sometime after that.
Snowden says launching in November is a “product-led decision,” allowing its engineers enough time to update the new app and prepare to transfer Barstool Sportsbook Ohio customers to the new platform.
Snowden also says he sees a launch deeper into the NFL season as an advantage. While building anticipation for the launch, ESPN Bet can sit out the early season flood of football promotions, then swoop in when things have died down a little.
“Everybody is spending like crazy,” Snowden continued. “Strategically, I like (the November launch) because we’re going to be out there launching at a time where maybe with everyone else, new customers have kind of burned through those promotional dollars on first-time deposit match and we are going to be mid-season offering something that probably isn’t being offered by others or it’s already been utilized with the other competitors.”