Penn National Rallies as Barstool App Launch Nears, BofA Analyst Lauds Stock

Posted on: September 8, 2020, 09:31h. 

Last updated on: September 8, 2020, 11:02h.

Shares of Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ: PENN) are standing out after the company said it’s close to rolling out the Barstool Sportsbook betting application in its home market of Pennsylvania. An analyst called the company one of the top names to own in the gaming industry.

Barstool App Nears Rollout
Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy (left) and CEO Erika Nardini are close launching their betting app with partner Penn National Gaming. (Image: Daily Mail)

The company said it gained approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to run a real money, soft launch of the Barstool app in the Keystone State from Sept. 15 through Sept. 17, pending final iOS approval, the operating system for Apple iPhones.

Following the test period, Penn National intends to officially launch the Barstool Sportsbook app in Pennsylvania on September 18, subject to final regulatory approvals,” according to a statement. The company plans to introduce the Barstool Sportsbook app in additional states in the coming months.”

The app is one of the first tests of the gaming company’s relationship with Barstool Sports, the sports media site Penn paid $163 million for a 36 percent stake in back in January. The September launch, though limited to start, jibes with expectations of Barstool executives who previously said the platform would be ready for the NFL season.

Assuming the gaming company gets approval to roll out the mobile betting offering across Pennsylvania on Sept. 18, that would position the operator to capitalize on Week Two of the NFL season. The first game of the 2020 campaign is Thursday, Sept. 10.

‘Centerpiece’ Strategy

The debut of Barstool Sportsbook will test one of the gaming industry’s hottest concepts: the pairing of traditional operators with media companies.

In January, when Penn announced its Barstool investment, some analysts balked at what could eventually be a $450 million price tag if the casino company decides to outright own the sports and pop culture blog. Since then, however, the deal is paying off, as Barstool founder David Portnoy is becoming the face of Penn, perhaps bringing with him millions of “Stoolies” to the app and upcoming Penn online offerings.

During the course of the COVID-19 sports shutdown, Portnoy turned to day trading to keep eyeballs on Barstool. He’s done everything from talk trash on Warren Buffett and Wall Street analysts to interviewing President Trump, all while providing free publicity for the parent company.

Portnoy is often called brash and controversial. But there’s no denying his ties to Penn are benefiting investors, as the stock is higher by almost 1,400 percent off the March lows.

That performance makes the success of Barstool Sportsbook, which Penn CEO Jay Snowden calls a “centerpiece” of the operator’s strategy, all the more important. Earlier this year, Snowden said online gaming and sports wagering should have a “material” impact on Penn’s top and bottom lines in 2021.

Top Choice

During the course of its meteoric rise since March, Penn is getting plenty of support from sell-side analysts, with Bank of America’s (BofA) Shaun Kelley reiterating a bullish view on the name today.

“We think PENN remains best-positioned among land-based operators, and see upside potential for their core business as well,” said Kelley in a Tuesday note.

PENN shares currently trade at 9.6x/9.0x 2021E/2022E earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, and restructuring or rent costs (EBITDAR), above their 7.5x long-term operating company average, but hardly extreme for a gaming company,” Kelley continued.

He has a “buy” rating on the stock with a $59.75 price target, well above the Wall Street average of $49.46.