Penn Entertainment Sets ESPN BET Launch Date

November 3, 2023
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Penn Entertainment will launch its much-anticipated ESPN BET platform on November 14 across the 17 states in which the company offers online sports betting.
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Penn Entertainment will launch its much-anticipated ESPN BET platform on November 14 across the 17 states in which the company offers online sports betting.

The casino operator has been touting a November launch since announcing the partnership with the U.S. sports media giant in August, but announced the firm launch date on Thursday (November 2).

In addition, ESPN began using odds provided by ESPN BET across all of its television and digital platforms Wednesday in preparation for the launch. Previously, Caesars Sportsbook had been the provider of odds for the company’s editorial productions.

The launch will also mark the official end of the Barstool Sportsbook experiment, which Penn divorced itself from in August by selling the company back to founder Dave Portnoy.

CEO Jay Snowden said that, upon launch, players from the existing Barstool Sportsbook will be prompted to download the new ESPN BET application and that all of their existing account information and wallet will be transferred to the new platform.

During a quarterly earnings call Thursday, Snowden said that although the most important states for the company will be those that feature both online sports betting and online casino, the focus will be on promoting the brand nationally.

“I think we're really approaching this now that we have the scale we do, being live in 17 states, it's a national platform, and most of our marketing efforts, certainly from a paid and earned media perspective, will be more on the national side,” he said.

Snowden maintained that interest is high at ESPN to help bolster the brand out of the gate, touting a marketing campaign that involves popular SportsCenter personalities, Scott Van Pelt and Elle Duncan. 

“I think what we found in our discussions with the team at ESPN is that there's a tremendous amount of excitement,” Snowden said. “It wasn't hard for ESPN to find the first two personalities to get involved in creative and commercials, and I think you'll see more and more of that, as we get into 2024.”

Shares of Penn jumped 13.98 percent, or $2.74, to $22.34 on the Nasdaq exchange Thursday.

Barry Jonas, an analyst with Truist Securities, noted that Thursday’s “stock outperformance was likely a relief rally as we think shares were impacted by wider macro concerns which appear for now to be unfounded for Penn.”

“The spotlight clearly moves to ESPN BET's November 14 launch,” Jonas wrote in a research report. “A successful execution could drive sizable upside while management is now guiding investment to be $300m over three years.” 

Jonas admitted that the launch date was earlier than expected.

“Management noted it would leverage the 200m ESPN media ecosystem users, as well as the 27m plus Penn loyalty members to drive conversion to ESPN BET,” Jonas added. 

Snowden said the ESPN BET launch was a big deal.

“I've mentioned this before, and I think you guys will all start seeing, we no longer have to speculate and who's right and who's wrong about how committed to ESPN BET ESPN is,” he said. “We know what we see and hear and engage with them about every day, and you'll start seeing that, and that includes the personalities."

The company remained non-committal as to whether ESPN branding will ultimately be used at retail locations. Previously, the company had touted the popularity of its retail sportsbooks under the Barstool theme.

“We're almost completely de-themed removing the Barstool theme,” said Todd George, executive vice president of operations for Penn. “They're sitting there as a sportsbook now and really honoring the kind of local markets that we operate in."

“We're working with ESPN, ESPN has sent their representatives to several of our properties, and to date, the feedback has been great,” George said. “So, we'll talk about where we can take this brand at our retail locations and find something that works for both of us.”

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