Remember the days when talking about odds and lines were taboo on television? We all know those days are long gone. If we needed more proof, it came Tuesday in the form of ESPN – the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” – signing a $1.5 billion deal over 10 years with Penn Entertainment to create ESPN Bet.
The gaming platform, according to ESPN, is part of an upcoming rebrand of Penn and will include a “mobile app, website, mobile website and mutually agreed upon retail locations” in 16 states where Penn currently is licensed.
The move comes at a time when ESPN and its parent company, Disney, are bleeding cash and six weeks ago fired about 20 on-air personalities, including Suzy Kolber, who worked in sports broadcasting for 38 years and at the network for more than a quarter-century.
They also let go of Max Kellerman, Steve Young, Jalen Rose, Todd McShay, Keyshawn Johnson, David Pollack and other big names.
That being said, the network has seemed to double down over the past few years on its betting content. The “Daily Wager” show airs each day on ESPN2 and the Watch ESPN platform. (However, Sports Betting Insider Doug Kezirian was part of the most recent layoffs.)
For years, their top SportsCenter host, Scott Van Pelt, has talked sports betting with his sidekick, “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, and has possibly the most-watched betting segment anywhere with “Bad Beats.”
And it has been no secret Disney has been dipping Cinderella’s toe in the gaming waters, as according to Forbes, it recently bought about 6% of DraftKings (although as of Tuesday, that ownership has dwindled to just shy of 5%), and there previously have been rumors ESPN would partner with the sports betting company.
The network said in an email:
“Over recent years, ESPN has increased multi-platform sports betting content, adding digital programming, radio segments and editorial content from talent. ESPN Bet is now the latest offering from ESPN to meet fan demand for a trusted brand in the sports betting space. The ESPN Bet brand will be home to ESPN’s sports betting content across platforms.”