ESPN to launch new sports betting platform

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ESPN is launching a new gambling platform, ESPN BET, which fans in the U.S. can use to engage in sports betting, the company announced Tuesday.

The newly branded sportsbook — part of a $2 billion agreement between the Disney-owned sports broadcaster and sports betting giant Penn Entertainment —  will be ready to use this fall in the 16 states where betting is legal and Penn Entertainment is licensed, a press release from ESPN said.

“Our primary focus is always to serve sports fans and we know they want both betting content and the ability to place bets with less friction from within our products,” said Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN. “The strategy here is simple: to give fans what they’ve been requesting and expecting from ESPN.”

Penn Entertainment is rebranding its current sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, to reflect ESPN’s look and name, and will be available for users through a mobile app, website and mobile website.

Along with the deal, Penn also announced that it has sold back Barstool Sports to its founder, David Portnoy, who also comfirmed the move Tuesday. Penn had just acquired a majority stake in Barstool Sports back in February. 

“The regulated industry is probably not the best place for Barstool Sports and the type of content we make,” Portnoy said in a video. “For the first time in forever, we don’t have to watch what we say, how we talk, what we do…I’m never going to sell Barstool Sports, ever.”

While ESPN covers the world of sports betting across all its platforms, this will mark the first time Americans will be able to actually place bets through ESPN’s digital products. Residents of the following 16 states will be able to participate: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. 

ESPN also said it will develop a “responsible gaming” committee. 

As part of the deal, Penn will pay ESPN $1.5 billion in cash over a period of 10 years, and will grant the broadcaster $500 million of warrants to purchase 31.8 million common shares of Penn.

“This agreement with ESPN and collaboration on ESPN BET allows us to take another step forward as an industry leader,” said Jay Snowden, CEO and president of Penn. “Together, we can utilize each other’s strengths to create the type of experience that existing and new bettors will expect from both companies, and we can’t wait to get started.”

In 2022, legal sports betting created $7.5 billion in revenue — a 63% increase from 2021, according to the American Gaming Association.

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