A new big name in betting
ESPN BET, the sports betting site that bears the name of the nation’s dominant sports media brand, has gone live in 17 states. For a long time it was considered impossible because ESPN is owned by the family-oriented Disney. Tuesday’s launch of ESPN BET marks the official marriage between the sports network and betting, although odds and betting have been talked about on ESPN’s platforms for years.
The ESPN BET name had already become popular before Tuesday, when ESPN’s Daily Wager program was rebranded as ESPN BET Live on November 10.
ESPN BET was created in August through a partnership between ESPN and PENN Entertainment. Although the network has previously worked with several sports betting and daily fantasy sports companies, this is its first dedicated betting offering. PENN paid ESPN $1.5 billion to license its brand and another $500 million in warrants to purchase PENN Entertainment stock. PENN provides the technology and will operate the sports betting provider, ESPN provides the name.
Money aside, it shouldn’t be too complicated for PENN Entertainment, as it’s actually just a rebrand of the former Barstool Sportsbook. Meanwhile, PENN cut ties with Barstool after the relationship simply didn’t work out. Barstool had become a massive sports media company, much smaller than ESPN but with a strong niche in “bro culture.”
PENN purchased 36% of Barstool for $163 million in 2020 with an option to eventually acquire all; This happened in August last year.
The pairing never dented the market dominance of FanDuel and DraftKings (and to a lesser extent BetMGM), and even though PENN lost a lot of money in the process, they decided to simply cut bait and start again. It sold Barstool back to founder Dave Portnoy for a single dollar and paid a king’s bounty to ESPN to try again.
ESPN employees need to be careful
Meanwhile, ESPN issued strict rules to its employees on Monday about what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to sports betting. Although ESPN did not specifically mention BET, the timing of the notification is likely not a coincidence.
Nothing should be too much of a surprise. ESPN employees are prohibited from disclosing confidential or non-public information to which they have access as a result of their work, placing bets on sporting events they cover, placing bets on leagues or sports they regularly cover, and under no circumstances are they allowed to play illegally.
In general, ESPN reporters are cautioned against doing anything that could affect betting lines, especially not intentionally.