A Tale of Two Barstools: Sportsbook In Detroit’s Greektown Thrives; Michigan Online Betting Sputters

Written By Matt Schoch on May 19, 2021

Two distinct stories are taking place with Barstool Sportsbook and Greektown Casino here in Michigan.

There is the unmitigated success of the brick-and-mortar sportsbook at Greektown in downtown Detroit. But then there’s the slide the Penn National Gaming online sports betting product has had since an impressive start this winter.

What gives with the discrepancy?

Well, it’s clear the Barstool folks are very skilled at marketing. But at the end of the day, customers want a good product.

Barstool is undoubtedly delivering in person in downtown Detroit, but is doing less to differentiate itself in a crowded field of Michigan online gambling brands.

Stoolies getting what they want at Greektown Casino

Greektown is back.

The lively area in downtown Detroit has enjoyed a spring renaissance as the COVID-19 case numbers have dropped and weather has improved the past few weeks.

On Sunday night, foot traffic was lively on Monroe Street.

Greektown Casino is right in the mix of all the foot traffic, benefiting from game days at nearby Comerica Park, and the return of Detroit Tigers fans there. The permanent Barstool Sportsbook, which opened just after Christmas, is in the middle of the casino floor.

Since then, the book has done a great job of delivering a unique Stoolie experience.

Barstool Sportsbook delivers for Stoolies, sports fans

Inside the Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown Casino in Detroit, there’s a 32-foot video wall, 29 televisions and 40 betting kiosks in and outside the book, and plenty of space to make your bets. (Matt Schoch/PlayMichigan)

Barstool apostles and traditional sports fans alike can have a solid experience at the book, with plenty of promotional pictures of Big Cat and Dave Portnoy.

There’s a 32-foot video wall, 29 televisions and 40 betting kiosks in and outside the book, and plenty of space to make your bets and post up at a standing table for research.

Inside the Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown, there are 20 beers on tap, Barstool merchandise for sale and a full menu of food.

There’s strip steak, salmon, “craft” burgers, and specialty Detroit-style pizza, including cheeseburger and buffalo chicken varieties. Wings have 10 different flavors of sauces, with BMF labeled as the hottest.

For now, with coronavirus protocols closing bars by 11 p.m. in Michigan, the last seating is at 9:30 p.m. with food orders required by 10 p.m. By 11, the sportsbook is cleared out.

On the final Sunday night of the NBA regular season, about 40 people were there. Most seats were filled as seating closed for the night.

Greektown is new leader for Detroit sports betting

Since the permanent sportsbook opened, Greektown has surged to the top of the Detroit casino market.

The atmosphere and location for the Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown Casino have helped the brand elevate into Detroit’s handle leader in retail sports betting. (Matt Schoch/PlayMichigan)

From the time sports betting launched in March 2020 until the new sportsbook opened in December, Greektown took $25.0 million in sports bets at the temporary sportsbook.

That total was a market share of 20.6%, well short of rivals MGM Grand Detroit (44.8%) and MotorCity Casino (34.6%).

Since the unveiling of the themed Barstool Sportsbook, Greektown has turned the race on its head. The book is second in downtown Detroit sports betting handle overall since December, but has taken over as of late.

Greektown led the March and April handle races, taking $20.7 million in bets, a 42.7% share.

And it’s not just from ancillary casino foot traffic.

During that two-month span, Greektown was at its usual No. 3 spot in adjusted casino revenue, taking 22.9% of the market share.

‘Detroit Sports Bettors’ overwhelmingly picked Barstool

We threw up an informal poll on a Facebook group of local punters aptly called Detroit Sports Bettors.

The question was simple. Which Detroit casino retail sportsbook do you like best: Barstool at Greektown, BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Grand Detroit, or FanDuel Sportsbook at MotorCity Casino?

It’s a small sample size of responses, but it told the same story as the revenue numbers: 30 bettors voted, with 18 votes preferring Barstool (60.0%), 7 votes for BetMGM (23.3%) and 5 for FanDuel (16.7%).

Barstool online sports betting falling hard after strong start

The online Barstool Sportsbook got off to a blazing start after the Jan. 22 Michigan launch.

Portnoy took a residency at Greektown and sampled every pizza from Eastpointe to East Lansing. Penn matched first weekend bets with donations to The Barstool Fund, benefiting Michigan small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Barstool took $27.5 million in sports bets over the first 10 days, a 23.9% market share. There was reason to believe Barstool could swim in the deep end with front-runners FanDuel and DraftKings, while holding off BetMGM, which started fourth.

Since then, Barstool’s online market share has dipped each month, taking 13.3% of bets in February, 11.0% in March and then 9.9% in April.

Barstool was the only one of Michigan’s 12 online sportsbooks to have less handle in March ($39.6 million) than February ($40.3 million).

In April, Barstool online sports betting handle dropped 37.2% to $24.8 million. That’s higher than the overall statewide drop of Michigan online sports betting handle in April, which was 30.5%.

Third-place BetMGM comfortably doubled Barstool’s handle, with $54.9 million in bets.

Barstool is much closer to falling to fifth behind PointsBet ($14.1 million April handle, 5.6% share) than rejoining those top three.

Portnoy’s new talking point is that Barstool will always have its “15%” of the market. Barstool certainly missed that new goalpost in Michigan in April.

Barstool Casino having rougher go than sports

At least Barstool had the strong start on the sports side. But as far as an online casino product goes, the product wasn’t on the start line on Jan. 22, launching instead on Feb. 1.

Barstool Casino has reported $12.5 million in internet gaming revenue, as Michigan online casinos have been the story since January’s launch.

Even though Barstool has considerable name recognition, is powered by Kambi and is backed by one of the powerful Detroit casinos, that’s just 4.2% of the revenue.

If revenue is the real story, those numbers don’t lie.

Barstool’s online product doesn’t separate itself

Barstool was the only one of Michigan’s 12 online sportsbooks to have less handle in March 2021 ($39.6 million) than February ($40.3 million). (Matt Schoch/PlayMichigan

Brand loyalty only takes you so far, it seems. Because in practice, there isn’t much to differentiate Barstool Sportsbook from its competitors.

BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel ads are everywhere in Michigan and appear to be bringing in new players, if market share is any indication. Promotions and a quality user experience make them stay.

Branded odds boosts and “Bet With PFT” promotions don’t quite feel like you’re hanging with pals. And certainly not like when you go to Greektown.

That said, trying to marry social strategy with betting seems to be one of the next betting battlefields for operators.

DraftKings and WynnBET seem to have betting amongst friends as a growth strategy, while FanDuel recently had a promo where you and your “squad” could earn free bets if you all met a betting threshold over a few days.

For Barstool, finding a way to connect the Barstool experience with the online audience seems to be the challenge. But perhaps it could be the answer in the months ahead.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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