Penn Entertainment’s Barstool Sportsbook is now ESPN BET and on November 14th it launched in 17 states with more to come. According to the early data, ESPN BET is making an early splash and that is precisely what the experts anticipated.
Early Returns Encouraging
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming posted November’s numbers and ESPN BET turned in an impressive, albeit not surprising, first half of the month. The new entry into the Maryland market delivered a 6% share of the handle in its inaugural month by generating $33.1 million in accepted wagers and a 10% share of gross revenue with $4.2 million.
In Indiana, the rebranded ESPN BET reported a $27.5 million handle in November which marks an all-time high for Penn in the Hoosier State, previously toiling under its Barstool Sportsbook. As a basis of comparison, Barstool Sportsbook did $17.5 million last November, $10 million less than ESPN BET’s first bite at the Indiana apple.
DraftKings CEO, Jason Robins, has seen the competition come and go but said the following regarding the newly designed, ESPN BET, “I think there’s been a pretty rational launch from PENN and ESPN. We expect to continue to see that. I think they are playing for the long term.”
What’s in a Name?
Those who are unaware might believe that the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN, is now in the bookmaking business but that’s not entirely true. Penn Entertainment is the bookmaker behind the ESPN BET platform while ESPN is merely reaping the benefits of their internationally recognizable name.
Penn Entertainment, a Philadelphia-based gaming company, initially bought Barstool Sports to attract its rabid fan base of mainly young males, a demographic that ties in well with sports betting. The media portion of the business would be used primarily to drive its audience to the newly branded Barstool Sportsbook.
That deal was consummated in February of this year when Penn paid the owner of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, aka El Presidente, his last installment of the roughly $550 million that was owed.
However, it was shortly thereafter that Penn Entertainment began pursuing ESPN and the rights to buy its mega-watt brand name. Time was of the essence as Penn wanted to close the deal in time to launch during the most lucrative sports betting season of all – football.
But it wouldn’t be quite that easy because along with Penn Entertainment paying ESPN $1.5 billion and $500 million in shares for a 10-year agreement, there was one other stipulation. ESPN did not want to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the controversial Barstool brand which meant Penn was forced to divest itself of the asset for which it had just paid over half a billion dollars.
Working on a tight deadline, Penn agreed to sell back the Barstool brand, sans the sportsbook, to Portnoy for the princely sum of $1 and 50% of the sale price should he sell it. Portnoy has vowed to keep it until his last breath.
So, yes, what’s in a name? Quite a bit as a matter of fact because of the cachet behind the brand that the name represents. But just remember, ESPN isn’t taking your bets, it’s just lending its name to the bookmaker that is – Penn Entertainment.