Not just one bite: Barstool Fund has raised more than $20.9M for small businesses By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports January 9, 2021 at 5:00 am Back in October, Dave Portnoy, founder and “El Presidente” of media platform Barstool Sports, decided to help save the historic Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia, which had been hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns. With an assist from casino operator Penn National Gaming, which owns 36% of Barstool, more than $250,000 was raised for location. Penn donated $100 for every new Barstool Sportsbook app that was activated over a 24-hour period with a deposit of $100 or more. “This is largely due to Dave and his profile online,” Penn CEO Jay Snowden said at the time, crediting Barstool’s loyal 66 million-plus followers – often referred to as “Stoolies” – who are avid viewers of the platform’s social-media and internet channels. Barstool ‘El Presidente’ Dave Portnoy Portnoy tapped into that audience once again with the Barstool Fund, which is raising money to bolster small businesses that have been damaged economically through no fault of their own by the pandemic. The primary requirement for the business to qualify is paying staff throughout the pandemic, even while operating under COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Portnoy kicked off the program with his own donation of $500,000. This week, Penn National contributed $1 million. The fund had raised more than $20.9 million from nearly 159,000 contributors by late Friday afternoon, which included a same-day $500,000 donation from entrepreneur Andy Frisella that arrived unsolicited. Other high-profile contributors include Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt, UFC boss Dana White, the Winklevoss Twins, entertainers Kid Rock and Kygo, and food and bar personalities Guy Fieri and John Taffer. Proceeds from merchandise sales of Barstool-branded T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other gear are funneled into the fund. Merchandise sales from the small businesses helped by the fund are also listed on the website and those proceeds are directly donated back to the businesses. So far, nearly 100 small businesses – primarily restaurants, bars, and other eateries throughout the U.S. – have been recipients. A ballet school in Illinois, a Massachusetts barbershop that is fifth-generation family-owned and operated, and a family-owned clothing store in Jasper, Indiana, that has been open since 1922, are among them. Barstool Sportsbook at the Greektown Casino in Detroit The Barstool Fund will cut a check each month to the business to cover expenses until the economic challenges from the pandemic have subsided. “It’s not one and done,” Portnoy told Today Show’s Harry Smith last week. “We’re helping during the duration of the pandemic.” More than 1,000 applications from businesses throughout the U.S. have been submitted to fund, which are screened by Barstool staff. Portnoy makes the final decision on the applications, viewing each and every video application. His video chats with recipients often become emotional. “Everyone knows small businesses are struggling. It’s common sense,” Portnoy told the Today Show. “When you see it, there is a visceral reaction. These are real lives you want to help.” Soon after Barstool raised the funds for the Terminal Market, Portnoy decided to help out struggling Borrelli’s. The Long Island, New York, restaurant is owned by the father of Frankie Borrelli, a Barstool employee who is best known for filming Portnoy’s “One Bite” pizza reviews. After one of Portnoy’s online rants about small businesses suffering during the pandemic, businessman Marcus Lemonis, who hosts CNBC’s “The Profit,” told him to do something about it. The Barstool Fund was born. The partnership between Barstool and Penn National has drawn a tremendous amount of attention in the past 12 months. Penn views Barstool’s “Stoolies” as customers for its casinos and its growing online gaming business. Penn unveiled Barstool-branded sportsbooks at its casinos in Colorado, Detroit, and Indiana. The sports betting app was launched in Pennsylvania in September and was downloaded more than 61,000 times in five weeks, taking in more than $78 million in wagers. The app is expected to roll out in Michigan by the end of January, while New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa, West Virginia, and Colorado could see the app by June. In addition to its $1 million donation to the Barstool Fund, Penn National said it would match all first-time deposits to the Barstool sportsbook app with the money used to help small businesses in Pennsylvania. Penn Senior Vice President Eric Schippers said the company was proud to support Barstool and Portnoy’s efforts throughout the country. Penn currently operates 41 casinos in 19 states. “We look forward to joining the fight to help save our small Main Street businesses,” Schippers said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.