In partnership with media giant ESPN

Penn Entertainment's rebranded ESPN Bet app launches across 17 states

Reading time 2 min

ESPN Bet, the new online sportsbook operated by Penn Entertainment, has officially launched in 17 states in the United States. The sportsbook, accessible on the ESPN Bet app and website, now allows players in various states, including Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio, to engage in sports wagering.

This launch follows Penn’s $1.5 billion partnership with Disney-owned ESPN, a collaboration aimed at solidifying Penn's position in the rapidly growing online sports betting market. The partnership entails Penn operating ESPN Bet, while ESPN leverages its online and broadcast platforms to promote the app.

Jay Snowden, CEO of Penn Entertainment, expressed enthusiasm about the potential impact of this partnership during Penn’s Q3 results announcement. At the time, he stated: "This strategic alliance is expected to further expand our digital ecosystem and drive re-engagement with the millions of customers in our digital and retail databases, leading to compelling cross-sell opportunities."

The ESPN Bet platform is a rebranded version of the existing Barstool Sportsbook app, a move that followed Penn's decision to sell Barstool Sports back to its founder, Dave Portnoy, in August.

Penn's rights to the ESPN Bet brand are secured for an initial ten-year period, with the option for an additional decade. Alongside the $1.5 billion licensing deal, Penn has also granted ESPN share purchase rights valued at approximately $500 million. 

ESPN Bet's launch is expected to add up to $1.0 billion to Penn's long-term adjusted EBITDA potential, according to the company's Q3 update. ESPN Bet is initially going live in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, with approval from gaming commissions still needed in some states. 

Mike Morrison, ESPN’s vice president of sports betting, discussed the media giant's strategy to enter the wagering space earlier this year: "We began looking at the sports betting space in 2018, ahead of the repeal of PASPA. We had some sense that things could change and we began to tee up a strategy and process about how ESPN might get involved in sports betting." 

The move positions ESPN, a prominent sports media brand with over 105 million monthly unique digital visitors, into the lucrative world of online sports gambling. The launch of ESPN Bet also marks a considerable shift for Disney, the parent company of ESPN, known for its family-friendly image. Disney's foray into the sports betting sector indicates a strategic effort to diversify revenue streams.

To address concerns related to responsible gambling, Penn and ESPN have implemented guidelines for their employees and developed content guidelines for marketing ESPN Bet responsibly. Penn employees are restricted from placing bets through the platform, while ESPN employees are subject to guidelines to maintain journalistic integrity and independence.

Marketing efforts for ESPN Bet will adhere to content guidelines across social media platforms, covering aspects such as odds attribution and editorial integrations. The focus is on responsible marketing practices, including efforts to suppress marketing for individuals who have self-excluded or are excluded for other reasons.

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