The inaugural SBC Digital Summit North America began with one of the biggest names in US gaming as Jay Snowden, President and CEO of Penn National Gaming, took his seat for the opening keynote address.

With Roger Gros, Publisher of GGB Magazine on moderating duties, several topics were aired including this year’s Barstool acquisition, Penn’s longer term sports betting aspirations and how the industry per se would return to business post-Covid.  

Kicking off proceedings, Gros focused first of all on the repeal of PASPA and what it meant to Penn National. 

“We had just announced that we were acquiring a competitor of ours, Pinnacle Entertainment, and were looking to close that transaction around the end of 2018,” responded Snowden. “But you fast forward to when that deal closed and we were going to be operating in 19 states across the country. 

“So when PASPA was overturned and sports betting became a state’s rights issue, we were the largest regional operator in the casino industry. This represented a transformational opportunity for the company.” 

He continued: “We knew the one thing that we were missing from a sports betting perspective at Penn was a brand to lead with and an audience to market to. We had great casino brands but our audience today tends to skew older – 45-plus – and the sports bettors tend to skew younger – 21 to 45 – so that’s where we started to look at who we might want to partner with and of course we eventually bought Barstool.”

Probing more on the Penn/Barstool outlook, Gros asked Snowden what the combination of the two will look like in terms of physical locations in casinos and online.

“We’re going to lead with the Barstool brand from an online sports betting perspective,” he said. “We’re also in the process of converting our existing retail sportsbooks inside of our casinos and our sports bars to Barstool branded sportsbooks and sports bars.”

The key question, added Snowden, was identifying how to activate that Barstool audience with their brands and the personalities behind that brand. “I think one of the things you’ll find is that there’s going to be a lot of activity in our properties around those sportsbooks and sports bars.”

Snowden was also pushed on what many observers would see as the coming together of two very different styles in the Penn/Barstool deal, especially given the latter’s perceived edgier approach with often controversial input from its Founder Dave Portnoy.

He commented: “We obviously spent a lot of time doing diligence on Barstool and we got very comfortable with making an investment in Barstool. Dave Portnoy and the folks at Barstool are a sort of meshing of Sports Center and Howard Stern and reality TV. It’s a sports media company, but at the end of the day these are entertainers. They create content – they’re comedians.” 

“They’ve been at it for 17 years and everything he has said is on video for those last 17 years. I talk to Dave extensively about it and he’s said this publicly that times change. And he looks back at some of the things that he did or said in 2008 or 2011 or 2013 that if it were today he probably wouldn’t have said.

“But the vast majority of the content they created is entertaining – they’re entertainers and comedians. I’ve yet to meet or listen to an entertainer or a comedian that thinks everything they said or did hit the mark when they did it.” 

SBC Digital Summit North America recreates many of the key features of a physical trade show, providing attendees with an opportunity to learn, make new connections, and view the latest products from the comfort of their own home or office. 

Running alongside the conference content is a program of themed networking sessions, while  attendees will also have further opportunities to connect at workshops and in the 20-booth interactive exhibition hall where major international suppliers will showcase their latest innovations. 

SBC Digital Summit North America is running this week July 14-16. To register or obtain more information visit the event’s official website