"The Worldwide Leader in Sports" has entered the sports betting fray.
ESPN, the sports media giant, launched ESPN BET in 17 U.S. states on Tuesday. Powered by PENN Entertainment and rebranded from Barstool Sportsbook, ESPN BET will become available to customers in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
As a result, ESPN BET will occupy more real estate on other ESPN properties. After previously partnering with DraftKings, ESPN will now use its in-house sportsbook for official odds. Popular social media account "SportsNation" has been rebranded as ESPN Bet on X, and "The Daily Wager" broadcast is now titled "ESPN BET Live."
The launch comes a week prior to Thanksgiving and the NFL's tripleheader offering on the holiday. It also comes with plenty of time before Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11. Both events are among the most popular among the betting audience.
Could ESPN BET challenge DraftKings and FanDuel, the top dogs in the U.S. legal sports betting market? Those two brands currently dominate in market share, but they're not afraid of new challengers.
"I think there's always going to be new companies coming into the market. It's always going to be competitive, but I think that's great," DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said at the Global Gaming Expo in October. "Again, that's the purpose of legalization of all this is to allow real companies to compete."
ESPN and PENN reached a $2 billion deal that resulted in PENN dropping its partnership with Barstool and rebranding the sportsbook as ESPN BET. What happened to the Barstool Sportsbook? Existing Barstool accounts will be available on ESPN BET.
The companies anticipate users of the ESPN app will be seamlessly integrated with the ESPN BET online sportsbook. It's a business model not unlike how PENN operates theScore media app and theScore Bet in Ontario.
ESPN announced last week that its insiders are banned from betting on the sports they cover. It's among the topics covered in the company's sports betting guidelines.
"Talent designated as Reporters and Insiders are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet on the properties (e.g., NFL, college football, NBA) they regularly cover," read the guidelines. "Employees who learn Confidential Information from Reporters or Insiders should never use such information for betting-related purposes."
The hope is the guidelines will help allay any fears bettors and consumers have about ESPN employees tipping off inside information or using it to their betting advantage.