Massachusetts Gaming Commission examines ESPN Bet deal

November 8, 2023
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The Commission has looked into the marketing deal between ESPN and Penn Entertainment.

As ESPN prepares to officially launch its new US sportsbook, due to come out November 14, some concerns have been raised by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), with regulators looking into the marketing deal between ESPN and Penn Entertainment. 

During discussions on Tuesday between Penn’s EVP, Chief Strategy Officer and Secretary, Chris Rogers and the Commission, it was decided that the launch of ESPN Bet wouldn't be blocked; however, the MGC made clear that it wanted more information about how rules between ESPN and Penn would be established. 

One of the main concerns of commissioners was looking at how it would be made clear to viewers that ESPN and its news content is different from ESPN Bet, especially as there are people on ESPN shows who talk about betting-related information.  

Commissioner, Eileen O’Brien, said: "I'm concerned about the name being the same and being that level of exclusivity and integration, which again, from a business perspective, I totally understand. But it is an area that I would love to get, when you have it, the more detail on the guardrails. Because to me, that's critical for this." 

Rogers told the commission that Penn and ESPN had developed guidelines to be followed when it came to the promotion of ESPN Bet on social media, but acknowledged there can be a perception that bettors are on the outside looking in on news-breakers who have access to relevant information, such as injury news. 

"I think there's more of a perception than anything. The sportsbooks are completely separate from media partners. And I feel confident saying even that with regards to our competitors," Rogers said.   

The Penn and ESPN deal was viewed by O’Brien as different because "you're taking what is already a preexisting, known brand with consumer loyalty, knowledge and affinity for what also happens to be the actual product that's being bet on, and then you are putting a brand-new relationship on that on your app and on your sports betting app." 

Rogers further underlined how ESPN Bet will be distinguished as something different and that the consumer is able to differentiate between editorial and sportsbook. 

Last month, ESPN Bet released its new logo ahead of the launch of the sportsbook this month, which includes a website, mobile app and retail locations. 

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