The wait is officially over for the launch of the most anticipated legal sports betting brand on American soil. "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," ESPN launched ESPN BET around 3:45 PM ET Tuesday, Nov. 14, in 17 states. The brand is expected to provide stiff competition for our best sportsbooks, including FanDuel and DraftKings.
There were a few glitches during launch day, but most saw their Barstool Sportsbook accounts seamlessly transitioned to ESPN BET. New users were also granted handsome bonuses, and by the end of the day, everything seemed to be running smoothly.
ESPN realized its dream of becoming a player in the growing U.S. legal sports betting sector. With an ultra-quick launch turnaround, it will be ready for Week 11 of the NFL season, featuring a Super Bowl rematch between the Eagles and Chiefs. ESPN BET will also be able to take advantage of the Thursday Thanksgiving slate of NFL contests and have some time to mature before Super Bowl and March Madness wagering take over the American landscape.
Where did ESPN BET launch?
By mid-afternoon, ESPN Bet was live in 17 states across America, all PENN Entertainment jurisdictions where Barstool Sports previously had a presence. Even Massachusetts, a holdout at first, warmed to the idea of an ESPN BET platform, which launched on Tuesday.
For now, ESPN BET bettors in the following jurisdictions will be able to take advantage of America's newest elite sports betting brand:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
You can bet that PENN and ESPN will have their eyes on other jurisdictions in the near and distant future.
The relatively short road to launch
Disney-owned ESPN has been in the sports wagering business for years, offering daily odds and sports wagering content for each game they cover with all their media outlets, including ESPN.com and ESPN's SportsCenter. ESPN BET is seen as a logical next step for the company.
Only in August did the company signal a serious intention to jump into the legal sports betting fray. By the 8th of that month, it signed a transformative $1.5 billion licensing deal with PENN Entertainment, which had been in a similar licensing deal with Barstool Sportsbook. Barstool had largely been a disappointment for PENN.
Three months later, ESPN BET has gone live with the chance to become an instant player in the competitive U.S. legal sports betting market.
There is certainly no shortage of competition in the U.S. legal sports betting market. Still, ESPN's reported audience of 370 million and 25 million subscribers to ESPN+ should result in immediate returns for PENN Entertainment and the ESPN BET brand.
FanDuel and DraftKings have the most to lose with the ESPN BET launch. The undisputed leaders in the industry will have to be wary of the exposure ESPN is about to cast on the newest shiny object in the American sports wagering industry.
Is there a reason for concern for FanDuel and DraftKings? The answer is a resounding yes. ESPN's reach among sports fans is unparalleled. According to an Odds Assist survey of 1,000 American bettors, 54% anticipated signing up for the ESPN BET app, and 46% expect ESPN BET to be the most popular sports betting app in America at some point.
PENN Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden said that ESPN BET is targeting a 20% market share by 2027.
It will be an interesting and anxious time for all those involved in the U.S. legal sports betting industry to see how much of an effect ESPN BET will have on the broader industry. Day 1 is in the books, with many more to come before we can glimpse the impact of ESPN BET on American bettors.