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Massachusetts Readies Itself for the Arrival of ESPN BET

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Nov 14, 2023 · 1:47 PM PST

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Apr 16, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; General view of an ESPN microphone before the game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Penn Sports Interactive will rebrand its Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN Bet by November
  • Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners shared concerns over continued Barstool Sportsbook promotions in interim
  • Despite claims from Dave Portnoy, a Penn Entertainment rep confirmed the company was never denied sports betting licenses due to Barstool’s involvement

ESPN BET is on its way to the Massachusetts sports betting scene, as Penn Entertainment is gearing up its rebranding efforts from Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN BET as it moves into October.

Penn Entertainment and ESPN agreed to a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership this past August, leaving Barstool Sports in the lurch. Penn Sports Interactive, the gambling and sports betting arm of Penn Entertainment, is currently in the process of completely rebranding Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN BET, which it hopes to complete by November.

Despite the rebranding efforts, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission shared concerns with the company today over the remaining promotion of Barstool Sportsbook.

Portnoy Did Not Cost Penn Any Sports Betting Licenses

As the company gears up for its rebrand to ESPN BET, it couldn’t fully escape its Barstool Sportsbook shadow during today’s meeting.

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien questioned Barstool founder Dave Portnoy’s claim that Barstool’s presence cost Penn Entertainment sports betting licenses in several states. She today asked a Penn Entertainment representative if it was indeed true that Barstool’s presence actually had no bearing on the company receiving  licenses or not.

PENN Entertainment’s Chris Soriano, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Penn, confirmed the company was never denied a sports betting license due to its relationship with Barstool.

“Penn has not been denied any licenses,” Soriano said.

Portnoy posted a video to his X profile this past August after he re-acquired Barstool Sports back from Penn, claiming the company’s partnership with Penn made it difficult to acquire sports betting licenses.

“We underestimated just how tough it is for myself and Barstool to operate in a regulated world…We got denied licenses because of me. You name it. So the regulated industry is probably not the best place for Barstool Sports,” he said.

Despite Penn’s complete split from Barstool, Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Nakisha Skinner shared concerns that Barstool’s logo and sportsbook were still prominently being featured on the Penn Sports Interactive’s website.

Even in this interim moment of rebranding, Skinner said, it can be confusing for Massachusetts sports betting customers who still see the Barstool and Barstool Sportsbook brand prominently being featured by Penn.

Soriano noted that Penn has been forthcoming and public with its discussions involving its partnership with ESPN BET. The company is working hard to its complete November rebrand and will come back to the commission when a final date can be announced and new customers can expect to claim an ESPN BET promo code.

“I think we have done a lot of communication to the public and to our regulators. These conversations have been going on for a while now. I think it’s very well known the transition is taking place,” he said.

DraftKings Signage Requires 21+ Wording

In other commission news, the commissioners put to rest a debate on the necessity of “21+” wording on visible DraftKings signage at Fenway Park, TD Garden, and Gillette Stadium.

The commission unanimously approved a waiver for the sports betting company through Nov. 20 for its logo at Fenway Park above the Green Monster. The company will have to put “21+” signage on the logo before a series of high school football games are set to kickoff on Nov. 21.

At TD Garden, DraftKings previously reported it would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to replace the logo on the Celtics’ home court. However, today DraftKings noted there is a separate way to replace the logo and it could do so by Dec. 1. The commissioners unanimously approved a waiver for the sports betting company through Dec. 1 to add the “21+” signage to the logo on the TD Garden Floor.

In terms of the DraftKings’ logos at Gillette Stadium, the company has already updated any LED digital logo that appears in the stadium to reflect the “21+” signage. The commissioners did, however, decide to not require the signage for the DraftKings Sports Zone inside the stadium.

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