Massachusetts Regulators Have Questions on ESPN Bet

Posted on: October 20, 2023, 02:11h. 

Last updated on: October 20, 2023, 02:20h.

ESPN’s entry into sports betting is facing new questions in Massachusetts.

ESPN Bet Penn Entertainment sports betting
The ESPN Bet logo ditches the cable sports network’s iconic red but retains the brand’s lettering. The forthcoming sportsbook is facing new questions from Regulators in Massachusetts. (Image: ESPN Bet)

Regulators are asking for more details about how the network plans to promote gambling on its airwaves once its ESPN Bet platform replaces Barstool Sportsbook later this year.

Penn Entertainment is rebranding its sportsbook under the ESPN banner after cutting ties with Barstool and its controversial founder David Portnoy in August. But before the casino operator can roll out its rebranded product in Massachusetts, regulators want to have their say.

At a meeting this week, members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said they wanted more information from Penn about its relationship with ESPN and how sports betting will be promoted during ESPN broadcasts of college football and other programming.

Penn representatives have been in touch with MGC staff and are eager to provide whatever information is necessary to maintain their sports betting license. Additional discussion of the issue is expected at a November 7 commission meeting.

Little Communication So Far

Commissioners said they haven’t received any formal submissions from Penn since the ESPN deal was announced, and they want more information about how gambling will be promoted during ESPN broadcasts. So far, commissioners said their only information about the deal had come from media reports.

Everything I know about what is proposing to happen here has not really come from Penn Entertainment,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said at Thursday’s meeting. “So that’s I think a disadvantage for us as a commission because we really don’t know where to start.”

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said she wanted to avoid situations in which ESPN anchors were recommending specific bets on the ESPN Bet platform.

Similar concerns were addressed prior to Barstool receiving its license, and commissioners seemed optimistic they would be able to resolve any concerns with ESPN. But, they said they need time to go through the process and sign off on the particulars before the sportsbook officially changes its name.

Late November Launch Eyed

Citing press reports that ESPN Bet plans to launch by November 20, commissioners said time is of the essence to get more information from Penn.

Staff were unsure if the rebranding plan had been addressed in any of the other states where Barstool Sportsbook operates.

The commission is asking Penn to produce a detailed explanation of its relationship with ESPN and how it plans to incorporate betting content into existing ESPN programming. Based on the information Penn provides, the commission will decide how or whether to amend its sports betting license.

ESPN Bet won’t be able to go live in Massachusetts until regulators sign off on the proposal.

A special meeting to discuss next steps is expected to be scheduled for November 7.

ESPN Bet earlier this week unveiled a new logo for the sportsbook and said it hopes to go live next month. The sportsbook plans to open in 16 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.