The unveiling of the new ESPN Bet online sportsbook is something sports fans are eagerly anticipating. This comes after the sports entertainment leader cut a long-term deal with casino owner PENN Entertainment.
As part of the deal, Penn sold the Barstool Sports brand back to founder Dave Portnoy. The plan now is for the ESPN Bet to replace the Barstool Sportsbook brand. Penn hopes that ESPN Bet can launch this fall in the 16 states where Penn has sports betting licenses, including Ohio.
So what will happen to the Barstool retail sportsbooks currently operating in Ohio? PENN Entertainment has a significant presence in the Buckeye State and operates retail sportsbooks at several Ohio gaming facilities. The question is, could they all be in for a dramatic brand shift in the near future?
PENN CEO: Some retail sportsbooks won’t take on the ESPN Bet brand
This rebrand is underway. However, a ton of work must be done before they launch in the Ohio sports betting market.
We know that PENN aims to launch the ESPN Bet product this fall. PENN Entertainment’s President and CEO Jay Snowden indicated that the launch could happen sometime in November.
During a recent earnings call, Snowden said the transition is still a work in progress.
“I think we have best-in-class retail sportsbooks across the portfolio today, which is awesome,” said Snowden. “We’re going to need to have some time to obviously get the ESPN Bet app launched as well as take down some of the Barstool-specific branding inside of our retail sportsbooks.”
PENN Entertainment currently operates two separate Ohio casinos and two racinos. All four of them are home to a Barstool retail sportsbook:
- Hollywood Casino Columbus
- Hollywood Casino Toledo
- Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course
- Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway
Snowden did not mention the Ohio facilities specifically. He also suggested that some of the current Barstool retail sportsbooks may not take on the new ESPN Bet name.
“We’re still working through ESPN. Folks have not had a chance to visit our properties yet. And so we’re going to go through a process,” said Snowden. “There can potentially be some ESPN-branded retail sportsbooks on plan. And if not, we still have what we believe to be best-in-class destinations on the retail sports betting side and sports bars connected to almost all of them.”
The ESPN Bet brand could be a big help for PENN in both retail and online sports betting. According to revenue reports, Barstool ranks sixth out of 18 online sports betting operators in both lifetime handle and revenue in Ohio. Snowden also said his team is working with Portnoy and the Barstool team to complete the transition.
What needs to happen before ESPN Bet can launch in Ohio
Snowden has mentioned that the goal is to launch ESPN Bet before Thanksgiving. That timeline would land the launch right in the middle of the NFL regular season.
However, logistical and legal hurdles always need to be cleared before a big sports betting launch. This one is a little different. The idea is that PENN is essentially just changing the name of a sports betting site in states where the operator already has a license.
On the retail side specifically, the rebrand may not happen at the same time as the online relaunch. Snowden indicated that he would like ESPN officials to be involved in such changes, which could take some time. He also said there is a chance that some of their retail sportsbooks won’t take on the ESPN Bet brand. That could mean that the casinos could be put in charge of the branding themselves.