HomeIllinois Sports Betting NewsPenn Partners with ESPN to Form ESPN Bet in Illinois

Penn Partners with ESPN to Form ESPN Bet in Illinois

Penn National Gaming and ESPN announced a major partnership to launch a new sports betting platform called ESPN Bet. The deal is reportedly worth nearly $2 billion and will see Penn rebrand its existing Barstool Sportsbook as ESPN Bet.

Image: IMAGO / NurPhoto

ESPN has been looking to get into the sports betting business for some time now, and the move is probably a good one for “The Mothership.” ESPN has a much broader audience than Barstool Sports does and will be able to reach more potential customers through its vast US television audience.

For Penn, the partnership with ESPN is a way to expand its betting brand to a larger audience that may have been put off by the frat-boy type following Barstool Sports and its various celebrity hosts.

As part of the deal, Penn will sell Barstool Sports back to its founder, Dave Portnoy. Portnoy won’t be paid upfront for Barstool, but PENN will receive 50% of the profit if Barstool Sports is sold or any future Barstool Sports partnerships.

The sale of Barstool Sportsbook is a sign of the times as struggling companies like PENN are trying to compete with rivals FanDuel and DraftKings.

PENN Entertainment CEO Jay Synder had this to say about the acquisition;

“In connection with the transaction, we are selling Barstool back to founder David Portnoy. Barstool has been a great partner, and we are thankful to Dave Portnoy, Erika Ayers, Dan Katz, and their team for helping to rapidly scale our digital footprint across 16 jurisdictions in the U.S. and introducing their audience to our retail and digital products. The divestiture allows Barstool to return to its roots of providing unique and authentic content to its loyal audience without the restrictions associated with a publicly traded, licensed gaming company”.

When Will ESPN Bet Go Live?

ESPN Bet Sportsbook is expected to launch in the late fall of 2023 in the 16 states where Penn is currently licensed to offer sports betting, including Illinois. The Barstool Platform will become ESPN Bet, and nothing will change for current Barstool Sportsbook customers.

It will be interesting to see how ESPN Bet performs and whether it can improve upon its roughly 4.18% market share in Illinois and compete with Prairie State rivals FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars.

What Does This Mean for Illinois Sports Bettors?

In a word, nothing. PENN is still running the app under the Barstool Sportsbook brand, and the only thing that will change is the name of the app.

That name change will occur sometime in the next few weeks. PENN will still call the shots for the Illinois sportsbook end of the business, and all betting accounts and personal information is safe and secure.

For more breaking news on Illinois sports betting apps, make sure you check us out regularly here at IL Betting.