What happened

Shares of Penn National Gaming (PENN -1.69%) climbed 7.6% on Thursday, following positive analyst commentary.

So what 

Stifel analyst Steven Wieczynski reiterated his buy rating on Penn's shares and boosted his price forecast from $47 to $85. His new target represents potential gains for investors of roughly 16% from the stock's current price near $73.

A digital bull is climbing an upwardly sloping stock chart.

Penn National Gaming stock has plenty of upside, one analyst says. Image source: Getty Images.

Wieczynski expects sports betting to heat up as the National Football League season progresses. Penn purchased a 36% stake in online sports publisher Barstool Sports in January for $163 million, and it recently launched a Barstool-branded mobile betting app. Thanks in part to Barstool's massive fan base, Wieczynski and other analysts expect Penn's new app to quickly become a leader in the online sports betting market alongside rivals DraftKings and FanDuel. 

Now what

Looking further ahead, Wieczynski expects more states to legalize sports betting as a means to recoup revenue lost during the current coronavirus-related economic downturn.

"Given the ongoing pandemic and the fact many states are hurting for tax dollars, we believe there could be up to 10 states that could fast-track or formally pass sports betting/iGaming legislation come this November," he said.