ESPN today pushed its chips into the center of the sports gambling table.
The network will launch a branded sportsbook for fans in the United States in partnership with PENN Entertainment, a leading provider of integrated entertainment, sports content and casino gaming experiences in North America. As of June, PENN operated 43 properties in 20 states, online sports betting in 17 jurisdictions.
PENN will rebrand its current sportsbook and relaunch as ESPN Bet this fall. It will do so in the 16 legalized betting states where PENN Entertainment is licensed. The rebrand includes the mobile app, website, and mobile website.
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The new entity will become ESPN’s exclusive sportsbook, and PENN Entertainment will receive odds attribution, promotional services inclusive of digital product integrations, traditional media and content integrations and ESPN talent access.
The long-discussed entry into the segment comes as cable networks face cord-cutting, challenging sports rights fee increases and a tough ad market.
“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, Chairman, ESPN in a statement. “The strategy here is simple: to give fans what they’ve been requesting and expecting from ESPN. PENN Entertainment is the perfect partner to build an unmatched user experience for sports betting with ESPN Bet.”
The network previously had deals with DraftKings Sportsbook and Caesars Sportsbook, but last year then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek, when asked about a standalone betting app said at D23, “We’re working very hard on that.”
The idea of a Disney-owned property embracing gambling has been controversial in years past, but sportsbooks are now legal – and very profitable – in 20 states.
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