Pennsylvania bettors looking to plunk down a few bucks on tonight’s NFL Kickoff Game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will have a fifth mobile sports betting option, as FOX Bet is now up and running.
Well, at least sort of. FOX Bet is currently in what’s known as a “soft launch” phase, where it is only available for certain hours of the day while final tests are being conducted. Tonight, it will spring open its virtual doors at 2 p.m. and remain live through the end of the game, or approximately 12 a.m. EST.
The Pennsylvania launch comes just days after the app went live in New Jersey. It is currently available for download on iOS and Android, and can be accessed through most modern PC and Mac browsers.
A rebrand in New Jersey, new in Pennsylvania
FOX Bet replaces BetStars as the forward-facing sports betting brand of The Stars Group, which is also the group behind PokerStars (TSG). It was in May that TSG forged a blockbuster media and sports betting partnership with Fox Sports that ultimately resulted in last week’s transition away from BetStars NJ in the Garden State.
It goes without saying that this was a smart strategic move by The Stars Group, as the existing BetStars NJ platform, for all its strengths and polish, didn’t appear to be resonating with New Jersey players, paling in popularity behind DFS giants turned bookmakers FanDuel and DraftKings.
The changeover grants the newly minted FOX Bet unparalleled media access, as Fox Sports boasts some of the most recognizable (for better or worse) media personalities in the game, and provides a wealth of NFL game coverage. Suffice to say, players that are tuned into Fox Sports on any given NFL Sunday will definitely know what FOX Bet is by the time that winning field goal is kicked.
In Pennsylvania, BetStars was never live, so FOX Bet will be the state’s first taste of a TSG brand. The Stars Group is partnered with Mount Airy Casino in the Keystone State, which is currently putting the finishing touches on its retail (presumably FOX Bet branded) sportsbook. No official launch date has been announced.
FOX Bet is the fifth mobile sportsbook to launch in Pennsylvania, following the Rush Street Gaming duo of Play SugarHouse and BetRivers, Parx Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook. That’s some pretty steep competition, considering FanDuel is currently the unequivocal industry leader in the New Jersey sports betting market, and the massive marketing push of the Rush Street sites.
Same mannequin, different wardrobe
On many levels, FOX Bet is a re-skin of BetStars, offering the same interface (albeit with a color and branding swap), same bets and betting markets, and same nuances (like Spin & Bet) as its predecessor. FOX Bet also supports the preexisting Bet Boosts and Super Boosts, which grant players better odds on hand-picked bets. As an example, for tonight’s game, players can decide to roll with Nick Wright (Packers +3) or Rachel Bonnetta (Chicago -3), but either way, they’ll receive a Bet Boost to +100 (no vig).
FOX Bet also entices new players in the Pennsylvania market with a welcome package that consists of $20 free cash for signing up. This is a cash drop, with no apparent strings attached. Then there is a 100% match up to $100 welcome bonus, which does hang by a couple of strings, but they’re loosely threaded. In order to convert the bonus funds to cash, players must wager them at least once on a bet at minimum odds of -200. Lose, and you’ll be right back where you started — no harm done. Win, and collect back the initial bet amount plus the winnings.
A key difference between the old BetStars and the new FOX Bet is that the latter is offering a smorgasbord of daily promotions. Forget for a second that these promotions are almost entirely based around the suspect betting prowess of Bonnetta, Wright, Cousin Sal, Colin Cowherd, and Clay Travis. If there’s any lesson we can teach new bettors, it’s that entertainers are rarely better at picking winners than a dive bar dartboard.
Instead, look at the value of each promo. Don’t bet a team because Cowherd says so. Bet it because you already agree with the bet and will receive enhanced odds on a win or a money-back deal if you lose.
To Pennsylvania and beyond
FOX Bet is expected to be live 24/7 in Pennsylvania in short order. But what’s next for the platform? In a word: proliferation.
In the short term, we expect PokerStars online poker to be integrated into the FOX Bet mobile app. Surprisingly, PokerStars — or any other online poker site for that matter — is not yet live in Pennsylvania, with rumblings suggesting an October launch date.
Looking beyond, The Stars Group is partnered with Penn National Gaming, a partnership that allows it to operate in states where Penn National owns a casino property. That’s nine states in total, including Indiana, which just went live with retail betting and is expected to roll out mobile in short order.
Penn National operates an Ameristar in Indiana, as well as one in Iowa, which only has in-person mobile registration for sports betting until 2021.
The Stars Group has first-skin access in Indiana. It also has second-skin access in Michigan, a state primed to legalize sports betting. Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and Massachusetts are among the other states FOX Bet could eventually land in if/when sports betting gets up and running. There’s also a Hollywood Casino in West Virginia, which is operated by Penn National.
After a rocky start, WV mobile sports betting is back online, with FanDuel Sportsbook leading the charge.
So yes, there are ample opportunities for FOX Bet to spread its wings. Will riding the backs of an array of sports betting personalities and a mass marketing campaign be enough to propel the operator to numero uno in the nascent legal U.S. sports betting biz? It’s certainly possible, but we’re not yet ready to “Lock It In.”