ESPN BET to Launch on Nov. 14 in 17 U.S. States

The announcement is a big one, as its backers are hoping ESPN BET can shake up the sports-betting status quo in the U.S.

Nov 2, 2023 • 12:58 ET • 2 min read
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has set a date for its official foray into the world of online sports betting: Nov. 14.

That is when, according to operator PENN Entertainment Inc. and ESPN itself, the new ESPN BET is supposed to go live in 17 U.S. states: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The planned ESPN BET debut on Nov. 14 is still subject to “final” approvals, the companies note, such as getting regulators in Massachusetts and elsewhere on board with the proposal.

A big name

ESPN, however, is already moving ahead with integrating the new online sportsbook with its media operations, such as using the odds provided by the PENN-operated ESPN BET in its various forms of content. The sports media company also released a “teaser” for the new betting platform starring SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt.

“In the spot, Van Pelt receives notifications from both the ESPN and ESPN BET apps, showcasing the cohesiveness between the two brands,” ESPN noted in a press release. “The full creative campaign, which will debut around ESPN BET’s launch, will also include SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan.”

ESPN added it is rebranding its “Daily Wager” show as “ESPN BET Live” starting on Nov. 10. 

While a November launch was expected, Thursday's announcement is a big one, as its backers are hoping ESPN BET can shake up the sports-betting status quo in the U.S.

PENN, meanwhile, released financial results for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30 and noted the looming launch is affecting its numbers.

The company struck a $2-billion deal to use the ESPN name for sports betting and abandoned a previous partnership with Barstool Sports to do so.

“Third quarter Interactive segment results reflect curtailed marketing in the U.S. as we prepared to transition our online sportsbook to the ESPN BET brand,” PENN CEO Jay Snowden said in a press release. “This strategic alliance is expected to further expand our digital ecosystem and drive re-engagement with the millions of customers in our digital and retail databases, leading to compelling cross-sell opportunities.”

Snowden highlighted that ESPN BET will be powered by PENN’s “proprietary and proven” technology platform, which is seeing “impressive performance” in the Canadian province of Ontario using another media brand, theScore.

“Our ESPN BET product will include a wide array of popular betting options, including featured bets, quick bets (micro-markets), player props, same game parlays and more,” Snowden said. “In connection with the launch, ESPN will be implementing an initial wave of exclusive integrations targeting their 200 million loyal fans across their linear and digital platforms, including an advertising campaign headlined by SportsCenter anchors Scott Van Pelt and Elle Duncan. Looking ahead, we will be introducing even deeper platform and media integrations with ESPN over the upcoming months, providing an unmatched and seamless media/betting experience that will appeal to sports fans across the country.”

How will this work?

Snowden and other members of the PENN management team provided more detail about their ESPN BET plans during their third-quarter conference call for analysts and investors on Thursday morning.

Barstool Sportsbook users can expect to be prompted in November to download ESPN BET, after which their account information should "seamlessly" transition to the new online sportsbook, Snowden said. Bettors could also see a few goodies thrown their way, as PENN expects its interactive division to lose around $300 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization over the next three years, albeit mostly in the first two. However, the company is forecasting it will still increase its overall cash reserve by more than $1 billion over the same period, Snowden said. 

The CEO provided some commentary on the timing of the launch as well. Instead of pegging it to the start of football season, a crucial time for online sports betting operators, PENN and ESPN are unveiling their new app in November, a decision which Snowden said was driven in part by wanting to present a "first-class" product right off the bat. What's more, the added time has allowed for more preparation for the rush of traffic that is expected on the first day. 

"The nice thing about launching on Nov. 14 is that it's a Tuesday and you kind of build into this before you get to Thursday Night Football, which is a big deal but not what the Super Bowl is certainly," Snowden said. 

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