Massachusetts requests more info from Penn on its ESPN plans

Paper reading Tell Me More
Image: Shutterstock

Penn Entertainment’s switch from Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN BET is imminent but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will require some more information before signing off on the rebranding.

During a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting this week, the commissioners discussed what guidance they might offer to Penn regarding how they need to approach the switch from a regulatory perspective.

However, the more the group talked, the more the commissioners decided they needed more information before proceeding.

“This process seems to me to be a little bit backwards. I am not aware that we’ve gotten anything from Penn Entertainment relative to what they are proposing here,” said Commissioner Nakisha Skinner. “We’ve spoken about it in very general terms. There’s much media attention to this deal. Everything I know about what is proposing to happen here has not really come from Penn Entertainment. That’s, I think, a disadvantage for us as a commission because we really don’t know where to start.”

The discussion wondered what many in the industry have asked, namely, how the on-air personalities of ESPN would be promoting the sportsbook.

In particular, ESPN’s College Game Day seems to be of concern in part because The Barstool College Football Show had specific requirements for it, including age-gating its audience since the show incorporated betting into its content.

It remains to be seen if ESPN College Game Day, which similarly travels around the country to college campuses, will integrate ESPN BET and have restrictions put on it. Commissioner Jordan Maynard did say he intends to take the same approach with Penn’s new partner.

“I will hold ESPN to the same standard I held Barstool during the application process.”

However, Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein made an important point during the meeting, which is that Barstool was owned by Penn, while ESPN BET is a marketing partner. In fact, ESPN already registered in the state prior to the partnership expecting it might be a marketing affiliate to an operator.

Depending on what Penn and ESPN BET decide to do, it may not be a regulatory issue. After all, plenty of operators utilize on-air integrations across other networks.

Penn is set to submit something to MGC as early as next week and the group should meet to discuss in early November.