It’s not exactly common for the public face of a sportsbook to also be its biggest customer.
In fact it’s downright banned in most markets. But that’s the case over at Barstool Sportsbook, where Dave Portnoy is firing in five-figure bets with regularity.
LSR previously asked Penn National whether Portnoy could bet legally with the Barstool app and received this response from Eric Schippers, Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs:
“Barstool Sports is a registered gaming service provider with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (“PGCB”). The PGCB does not prohibit qualifiers or employees of gaming service providers from wagering in Pennsylvania. In addition, Barstool Sports is not the operator of the Barstool Sportsbook app, and Mr. Portnoy has no control over the operation of the app.”
Portnoy says otherwise
However, Portnoy himself seems to suggest he does have some control over the app.
In a podcast last week, Portnoy said he had been trying to launch a so-called Hat Promo for the sports betting app: bet $100 on the Clemson–Miami game and win a hat if the bet wins. It’s similar to another promotion called the Overs Club.
But a lack of urgency at Penn meant the promotion did not get approved in time, according to Portnoy. That led to the Barstool founder falling out with a Penn senior exec who didn’t call him back quickly enough.
“When I call you, you better get back to me quicker than two hours,” Portnoy said. “The whole company depends on it. [Penn CEO Jay Snowden] has been very clear, I should be treated as he should be treated. When I call you, you answer. They [Penn staff] can listen to this. They answer to Jay, and they answer to me.
“You’re going to have to come into my lane or get out. Because you know who the most important person is for both companies? You’re looking at him. I drive sign-ups, I drive the stock price. I drive everything.”
Portnoy might be right. Oppenheim equities analyst Jed Kelly noted recently: “Take Dave Portnoy away from Barstool, the brand losses a lot of its luster.”
But it does sound like Portnoy is more than just a marketing services provider with no control over the operation of the app.
Why does it matter for Barstool Sportsbook?
Recall that key employees at PA sportsbooks cannot wager with their own companies. And how does Pennsylvania define a key employee?
Any individual who is employed in a director or department head capacity and who is empowered to make discretionary decisions that regulate sports wagering operations or systems …
When pressed on the question again, Penn said:
“As previously stated, Barstool Sports is not the operator of the Barstool Sportsbook app, and Mr. Portnoy has no control over the operation of the app. Barstool is a promotional partner and the podcast in question referenced a promotional opportunity.”
Regardless it will be interesting to see how Penn handles the issue going forward.
On Sunday, Portnoy was tweeting about someone else’s NFL bets rather than his own, suggesting he may have already been asked to tone it down. But of course, the authenticity of Portnoy betting is a key part of the Barstool Sportsbook brand.
It’s a tricky spot for Penn, but one they need to resolve sooner rather than later.