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Massachusetts Has Some Tough Questions for ESPN Bet

Penn Gaming and ESPN are eager to launch ESPN BET in the regulated Massachusetts gaming market as they possibly can. But that plan hit a snag recently when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission began asking the sports juggernaut some difficult questions about the dividing line between ESPN’s sports programming, and ESPN’s dreams of being the biggest bookie in America.

The plan for ESPN BET is to launch it as a re-branded Bar Stool Sportsbook, which itself was a re-brand of the popular Barstool Sports media blog and podcast media empire. That plan was going really well, with an anticipated launch sometime in mid-November, until Gaming Commissioner Eileen O’Brien reminded Penn of the agreements it had struck to help prevent underage gambling.

In particular, O’Brien pointed out that audiences for Barstool broadcasts about gambling were age fenced. That worked pretty well for the studio audience for a podcast but how would that work on an ESPN-scale, like on College GameDay?

“You mentioned the college football show, and then also how they’re going to be drawing lines (where) you cannot have someone, obviously, who works for the entity and then is also recommending specific bets that are going to be on their platforms. This was something (Penn) navigated with Barstool, and I’m curious to get the same information as it relates to the same branding relationship with ESPN Bet,” O’Brien queried in comments reported on by Legal Sports Report.

This last minute roadblock could prove to be a significant delay for the ESPN BET project since celebrity picks are a big part of College GameDay’s weekly content. That content, by the way, is delivered in front of crowd of hundreds of college football fans, most of whom are under the legal gambling age.

The nexus of sports betting content and standard sports content will be the subject of several upcoming meetings between the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Penn Gaming on November 2 and 7 – and will have national implications for ESPN BET.