Disney CEO Bob Chapek broke a longstanding taboo against gambling recently when he talked openly about the company’s desire to create an ESPN-branded sportsbook. Chapek broached the subject after being queried by an audience member at the recent D23 fan expo.
According to a report on Legal Sports Report, Chapek’s response to the question of whether or not ESPN will get into the sports betting business was, “We’re working very hard on that.” That’s a far cry from the stern no-gambling-allowed attitude of previous Disney chiefs such as Bob Iger, who wouldn’t broach the subject of integrating gambling into Disney-owned properties such as ESPN.
But that was then and this is now. With almost half the American population living in states that offer regulated sports betting, Chapek is much more open to leveraging the Disney/ESPN brand in that direction. “Sports betting is a part of what our younger, say, under-35 sports audience is telling us they want as part of their sports lifestyle,” he said – and he’s right.
Not only would an ESPN-branded sportsbook walk into the market with incredible name recognition, it also brings an incredible amount of built-in trust. A recent survey by Odd Assist found that just under three-quarters of the American public would trust ESPN with their sports betting action.
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro spoke recently to The Athletic about the possibility of expanding existing partnerships with gaming operators saying, “We think we can potentially be doing more. We need to be serving the sports fan with what they’re expecting, and taking the friction out of the process.”
At this point, it appears that it’s only a matter of time before ESPN is accepting regulated sports betting action in the United States.