Online sports betting in Massachusetts goes live on Friday. With 10 online operators expected to be available in the state by next January, there is no shortage of competition for the sportsbooks. Typically, operators such as DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM and FanDuel dominate wherever they are operating.
However, there is always a percentage of the market the big three sportsbooks don’t reach, and that share is what has yet to be determined in Massachusetts.
Caesars Sportsbook is usually the next up. In November 2022, for instance, it ranked fourth in the US with an 8% market share. But there is unique competition in Massachusetts that may not make it so easy this time around.
Barstool Sportsbook may have an edge in the Bay State given it’s the home state of founder Dave Portnoy, who is loved by natives. Plus, he has a reach and marketing knack that far exceeds Caesars in the state.
So … who will claim fourth place in the Massachusetts sports betting market?
Dave Portnoy’s reach
Hate him or love him, Portnoy has a cult following that cannot be denied. From various podcasts to social media and gambling-specific shows, Portnoy is everywhere.
Below is a summary of what he has available to him to push the Barstool brand.
- 2.7 million Twitter followers
- 1.15 million YouTube subscribers
- 6 gambling podcasts/shows
- 4.1 million Instagram followers
Portnoy created the Barstool brand in Boston and built it into the media giant it is today. PENN Entertainment recently bought the company for $450 million — to help give you a better idea of the brand’s worth.
READ MORE: Best Massachusetts Sports Betting Promos
Does either have a retail advantage?
While it’s not everything, having a retail sportsbook presence can help bolster an online sportsbook in a state.
And, right now at least, Barstool Sportsbook has the edge there. Plainridge Park Casino, just about 38 miles south of Boston, is owned by PENN Entertainment and has a brick-and-mortal retail sportsbook with 20 betting kiosks in the casino. Barstool had the second-highest sports betting handle on Jan. 31, the day retail sports betting launched in Massachusetts.
Folks who live near PPC or who frequent the Barstool Sportsbook may be more inclined to download the Barstool app.
However, Caesars will also have a retail sportsbook in 2023. It inked a deal with Raynham Park, a horse betting simulcast facility 31 miles south of Boston, to open a retail sportsbook at the property.
While the Massachusetts Gaming Commission still has to approve a license for this sportsbook, expectations are that the 30,000-square-foot Caesars Sportsbook Massachusetts should be open in the spring.
The Portnoy advantage and non-traditional media
Although Caesars own a bigger percentage of the US sports betting market share and has more advertising dollars to go around, Barstool’s empire was built on non-traditional media, which Caesars is just now looking to enter. What Barstool has learned over the years may be enough to help the sportsbook pull ahead in the battle for fourth place.
The biggest driver of the non-traditional media for Barstool is Portnoy. From disputes with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to picking fights with HBO executives, Portnoy is no stranger to viral controversy. Negative media is normally a pitfall for major brands, but for Barstool, it’s an advantage and routinely benefits the company.
When you consider the awareness the consistent controversy creates and growing number of marketing efforts such as Barstool Bites and popular merchandise, Barstool’s brand is arguably the fastest growing of any sportsbook.
“I really believe Barstool is everywhere. There isn’t a category that we haven’t disrupted,” Barstool CEO Erika Nardini said in a Front Office Sports interview. “Whether it’s finance, sports, lifestyle, entertainment, military, parenting. We’ve really disrupted so many great categories. We create content that is funnier, smarter, sharper, shorter, more dynamic than most anybody else out there. That’s the reason our brand and our company are growing so quickly. That’s the reason we perform so well for our advertising partners.”
As big of a brand as Caesars has quickly grown into, it hasn’t quite developed the infrastructure to reach the residents Barstool is able to reach without significant traditional advertisement. Caesars may get out to a faster start right out of the gates due to its more lucrative launch offer.
But long term, Barstool is positioned to compete with Caesars in a state whose residents passionately follow its brand.
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