DETROIT (FOX 2) - Place your bets - online sports betting is legal in Michigan as of noon Friday. And in the first hour of going live, Barstool Sportsbook had already raised $750,000 to help small businesses in Michigan.
"If we can raise $5-$10 million to give back - it really is a win-win," said Dave Portnoy.
Portnoy is the founder of multimedia site Barstool Sports and a University of Michigan alum. He says as he watched states shut down because of COVID-19, he got angry.
"These are everyday Americans, kind of the backbone of this country, mom and pop places - and they're dying," he said. "We started the Barstool Fund. I (started it) by putting $500,000 of my own money into it."
Then he asked fans, readers and wealthy friends for donations.
"We've raised $30 million and we're giving back to as many small businesses as we can help," he said. "And it has really kind of taken on a life of its own."
Barstool Sports CEO Dave Portnoy inside the Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown Casino.
The fund helps with rent, taxes, or payroll and then checks back each month to see how they're doing. Barstool wants to continue helping throughout the pandemic.
So far close to $200,000 people have donated and they've helped close to 200 businesses so far across the country. Then Portnoy calls them to deliver the good news. Some of the more famous donors include Elon Musk, Kid Rock, and quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
This weekend they're focused on Michigan businesses. Anyone making a deposit through the Barstool Sportsbook and wagering for the first time in Michigan will have their wager matched by the operators of Greektown Casino - and donated to the Barstool Fund.
"It can be five bucks, 10 bucks, $10,000 - whatever it is, (Barstool part-owner) Penn (National Gaming) will match that and give it to the Barstool Fund directly for Michigan business."
The effort helps to tide them over until after the pandemic. Even Portnoy's brand new Barstool Sports bar at Greektown is empty.
The place should be packed but because of COVID-19 restrictions, it's not open - just yet.
"It's kind of tough that you can't get in there but it's cool that Greektown is offering that, so it's kind of nice," said Kyle Allen.
Allen and Brent Alexander stopping by to place a bet outside - looking forward to Barstool opening soon.
"We don't get down here as much as we want but to have something like this - it gives us a chance to get together, hang out and have something to do," Alexander said.
"Everyone's going to enjoy this," Portnoy said. "COVID-19 is not going to be here forever and we'll be back when people can actually enjoy it the right way."
Until then you can still wager on the Barstool Sportsbook app or at https://www.barstoolsportsbook.com/