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Volume 26 No. 114
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Penn National Becoming NASCAR's First Sports Betting Provider

NASCAR will announce Penn National Gaming as its first authorized sports betting provider today, an intriguing marriage between a sport working to create a more engaging betting experience and a well-established racetrack and casino company about to plunge headlong into the sportsbook fray. The three-year, non-exclusive deal gives Penn National the rights to use NASCAR marks at its retail sportsbooks and on the sports betting app it intends to launch in August, all of which will carry the Barstool Sports brand thanks to their recent deal. The sportsbook app will use NASCAR's official data feed to offer in-race betting. Penn National also will announce an extension of its title sponsorship of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, where it operates a full-service casino, through '26. Kansas legislators have not yet legalized sports betting. The most visible aspect of the deal initially will be a free-to-play NASCAR Finish Line prediction contest offered through an app developed by Penn National and Boom Sports, creator of the popular NBC Sports Predictor app. Launching for the Daytona 500 and available nationwide, the contest will offer a weekly $50,000 prize.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: The strategic play for both sides is long term, as NASCAR works to increase its share of the sports betting market that is dominated in the U.S. by football, baseball and basketball. Last year, those three sports combined to account for about 90% of legal bets in Nevada and 75% in New Jersey. NASCAR is counting on in-race betting including odds changing as the race progresses. Fed by proprietary data collected by NASCAR and distributed by London-based Genius Sports, in-race betting would take NASCAR's betting menu well beyond what it mostly has been, a basic offering of odds on each driver to win. "What we're trying to do in sports betting is not simply trying to convert the illegal market to the legal market. We have to create a market," said NASCAR Managing Dir of Gaming Scott Warfield. "It's a different challenge than the stick and ball sports have. So, I think it was important for us to take our time, do our due diligence, meet the players and understand who could be strategic partners."

STANDING OUT: Penn executives predict that being a first-mover in NASCAR not only will provide exposure as they launch the Barstool-branded app, but also differentiate it in a crowded market that includes FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, Fox Bet, BetMGM and others. Penn National VP/Strategic & Financial Planning Jeff Kaplan noted they will not be the only authorized gaming operator with NASCAR. He said, "What we think is unique and what we think can engender loyalty among our customers is the productization of some of these features."

PLAY TO WIN: Available for both iOS and Android, NASCAR Finish Line will offer a weekly $50,000 jackpot for predicting the race winner and the top finisher within each of six driver groupings. Penn National will be presenting sponsor of the game, though it has not yet determined whether it will feature that brand or the Barstool brand. Available in all 50 states, Penn hopes to use the game to identify and connect with fans likely to convert to real money sports betting as it becomes available. "NASCAR's database is so large and their reach is so big that we don't have to convert millions of customer for this deal to be worth our while," Kaplan said. "Even if we do thousands of customers that we ultimately convert from free-to-play to real money sports betting, it still can be a very positive return on investment."

BUILDING A BASE: Whether NASCAR fans bet on who is going to win in Talladega, or how much Alabama will win by in Tuscaloosa, matters little to Penn Gaming, so long as they do it on the Barstool-branded app. "On any given Sunday we have three, four or five million people captive that are already participating in state lotteries, betting on other sports, visiting casinos and gambling on vacation," Warfield said. "So, even if in Year One you want to acquire that customer and bring them in on NFL or college football, and then expose them to head-to-head driver (bets), stage one and stage two winners and trifecta. That gets interesting. Time will tell whether that theory is right or not. But I know the power of this brand and what we can do if the product is viable."