It's been just over two months since ESPN made headlines with its move to align with sports betting behemoth Penn Entertainment and its best sports betting apps. It gives the company the right to launch the highly anticipated ESPN Bet brand in Penn's licensed jurisdictions around the country and join the best sportsbooks.
It was back on Aug. 8 that Penn Entertainment announced it's moving on from a partnership with Barstool Sportsbook in favor of one with ESPN. Penn Entertainment invested a reported $1.5 billion for the right to use the ESPN name, but there's still no launch date for ESPN Bet.
So, what's the holdup?
The bread-and-butter time for sports betting providers and betting sites is the NFL season. There's still no mention of a launch date for ESPN Bet five weeks into the current campaign.
Originally, ESPN Bet hoped to be live before the start of the NFL season. And right now Penn Entertainment is benefitting from its partnership with Barstool sportsbooks - the ones that ESPN Bet is going to replace.
ESPN Bet gets an opportunity to launch in 16 of Penn’s states, including:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Nov. 20 has been mentioned as a potential jumping-off point for the ESPN Bet brand. It would coincide with one of the NFL games that fans have been circling on their calendars, a Monday Night Football clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs in a Super Bowl rematch.
Penn execs have met with Massachusetts regulators, so chances are as good as any that the company kicks off in what has been a strong market since its launch. Interestingly, Massachusetts is the home base of DraftKings, which holds a majority market share in that jurisdiction.
Hopes for Disney-owned ESPN are that it can make a splash in that state and others when finally up and running.
There's a good chance that a Massachusetts launch will be just the first of many ESPN Bet sportsbook openings in a short period. Look for late November and early December to be a busy time for the sports betting brand.
That is unless ESPN faces regulatory hurdles along the way. However, it's expected that a relationship with Penn Entertainment, one of the most respected names in the U.S. legal sports betting industry, will make the application processes just a formality.
What’s at stake?
Penn holds licenses to operate retail and mobile books in 16 U.S. states. While Barstool Sportsbook wasn't necessarily a serious threat to DraftKings and FanDuel in any of those states, the book does hold a recognizable name and a decent following.
ESPN is on a different level of media exposure for the average sports and sports betting fan. The company boasts an estimated audience of 370 million with 25 million ESPN+ subscribers that will now get easy access to what Penn National brings to the table.
ESPN has essentially been in the sports betting business for years. You never see a SportsCenter episode without some odds posted. Getting into the sports betting game seems like a logical step for the sports media empire. It looks on paper like the perfect heavyweight marriage.
PENN Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden said the company is eyeing a 20% online sports betting market share by 2027, which is a lofty goal.
The trick that remains is taking the ESPN Bet brand over the finish line. That's in the best interest of everyone involved, including those who are hoping to see an ESPN Bet platform in their states during the NFL season and beyond.
Odds Assist did a survey of 1,000 American bettors who are 25-plus years old in August, and there were some very positive results for the ESPN Bet brand. Of those surveyed, 54% said they plan to sign up for ESPN Bet in their state when it's launched. Only 8% in that survey said they weren’t at least considering giving the brand a try.
Also, 46% believe ESPN Bet will emerge as the top legal sports betting brand in America.
So, an ESPN Bet launch seems to be on the horizon finally, and possibly on Nov. 20. Those hoping to sign up for an account can start looking for pre-registration opportunities, an ESPN Bet promo code, and the inevitable bonuses that accompany such sign-ups.