Colin A. Young from Statehouse News Service in Boston reports that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently examined the partnership between Penn Entertainment and ESPN, which raises concerns over the blending of sports media and sports betting. Penn Entertainment, which operates Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville and the Barstool Sportsbook mobile betting app, announced a licensing deal with ESPN to create ESPN BET.
During the meeting, the commission probed the details of the marketing deal and questioned Penn’s executive vice president, Chris Rogers, for over 90 minutes. The commission expressed interest in ensuring that there are clear guidelines and restrictions to establish boundaries between the two entities.
Particularly, the commission wanted assurances that ESPN BET would not compromise ESPN’s journalistic integrity. Rogers assured the commission that Penn and ESPN have developed guidelines to govern the promotion of ESPN BET on social media, policy guidelines for college campus promotions, and internal protocols to maintain ESPN’s journalistic integrity.
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien expressed her concerns about the exclusivity and integration of ESPN BET within the existing ESPN brand, questioning how viewers would differentiate between ESPN’s news content and its betting platform. Commissioner Jordan Maynard also raised concerns about how programs like Pat McAfee’s popular show, now owned by ESPN, might influence betting decisions.
Rogers emphasized the importance of maintaining the distinction between the news and sports betting platforms. He also mentioned that ESPN has previously worked with other sports betting operators and assured the commission that the consumers will be able to differentiate between the news and sports betting content. However, the commission remained skeptical about these assurances.
In conclusion, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission allowed the launch of ESPN BET but made it clear that Penn and ESPN would need to share more information about maintaining clear boundaries between the two entities. The commission showed a keen interest in ensuring that viewers clearly understand the distinction between ESPN’s news content and its sports betting platform.