Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini Helps Legal Sports Betting Go Mainstream

From My Legal Bookie, newsletter by Hackney Publications and sponsored by Ifrah Law that tracks the legal sports betting industry. Subscriptions are free and available at

A new industry is emerging at the intersection of sports and the law – legalized sports betting. While sports betting has been around since the dawn of sports, its path to legalization in the U.S. began only recently in May 2018 when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in Murphy v National Collegiate Athletic Association. Despite its legal infancy, the newly formed industry has been booming with revenue projected to top $8 billion by 2025. 

At the forefront of this transformation has been Erika Nardini, the CEO of Barstool Sports. The sale of Barstool Sports to Penn National Gaming, announced in January, has positioned Nardini and Barstool Sports at the frontlines of a changing landscape. But how did we get to this moment and what is to come in the future? We reached out to Nardini and she graciously consented to an interview.

Question: Did mainstream sports betting arrive too quickly to the average sports fan?

Answer: Legal sport betting has been established in the U.S. for years. Since Americans have been betting illegally for so long, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. created its own legal sports betting structure to satiate the demand. Sports are a part of the social fabric of America and legal sports betting enhances that part of society by adding another “level of excitement” and further “driving engagement.” 

Q: Could this “engagement driving” factor help a specific sport?

A: This factor could be particularly impactful, especially for women’s sports, because women’s sports currently face an uphill battle against the inherent advantages men’s sports have, such as a lack of media coverage. Sports betting can be a unique and new way to build audiences in all sports including women’s sports as bettors look for more content to bet on. In the end, as betting gets easier and more fun with legalization, all sports will benefit. 

Q: How will Barstool Sports incorporate sports betting into its products and services?

A: The best way to incorporate sports betting into Barstool Sports’ products and services is by making it an organic, authentic part of the sports conversations. But to reach that goal, Barstool Sports has had to adjust our legal operations and focus. We have been extremely focused on the legal issues surrounding this emerging industry the past six to seven months, and the company has put a great deal of time and resources into the legality of sports betting, compliance regulations, and state by state nuances. Furthermore, it is our duty to promote responsible gaming through education.

Q: Since Murphy v National Collegiate Athletic Association did not establish a nationwide gambling structure and instead left it up to the states (unless Congress decides to step in), how has this impacted your rollout?

A: This state-by-state rollout does complicate the process and we understand this is how it’s going to be. However, we also see some positives from it. First, it allows “each state to determine what they’re comfortable with.” And, second, a state-by-state rollout allows Barstool Sports to generate excitement and tailor their launches to the state as they legalize sports betting. We envision Barstool Sports enabling a sports betting ecosystem across the country by leveraging the fact that Penn National Gaming owns and operates in 19 states with 41 properties. 

Q: Will sports betting create business at the national, regional, or local level?

A: Most of sports betting business will be predominantly generated by daily fantasy and international, national, and regional companies.

Q: Why should the legal community be interested in the industry?

A: I see the sports betting ecosystem as a great industry, especially for the legal community since the industry is so highly regulated. I used to be in the financial industry and see many similarities between the financial and sports betting industries in regard to regulations and opportunities for lawyers to help sports betting businesses navigate legal issues. If you are interested in the law and want to apply it to sports, I can’t think of a better industry than the sports betting industry.

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