Massachusetts gaming regulators have very nearly approved the long-awaited launch of ESPN BET this week. The re-brand of Barstool Sportsbook could be an industry-changing event, but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s questions about how ESPN plans to limit its gambling content to minors did make for a few last minutes concessions from the sports news behemoth.
The issue of underage gambling came up early on in the discussions about an ESPN-branded sportsbook thanks to discussions that had already happened regarding Barstool Sports’ appeal to younger viewers. Bearing that in mind, ESPN is going to some lengths to make sure there’s a clear separation between its on-air content and ESPN BET, especially on its flagship show College GameDay.
Penn Entertainment’s Chief Strategy Officer Chris Rogers explained to regulators that ESPN BET signage will not be part of the GameDay set and that announcers on the show will not be promoting sports betting products. He also said that ESPN BET will not be doing any site sign-ups at College GameDay broadcasts, which take place on college campuses around the country. ESPN is taking these Gameday precautions despite the fact that more than 75 percent of the show’s viewers are older than 21.
“There will be no connection between ESPN insiders, reporters, or the newsdesk with anyone who handles risk or trading for PENN. ESPN will continue to report on news as it always has, while PENN will separately and independently manage the sportsbook. PENN will not have access to ESPN’s news-production software,” Rogers said in comments reported on by Covers.com.
Penn Gaming officials expect to get the final go-ahead for ESPN BET at the Commission’s December 14 meeting.