ESPN’s Rece Davis receives backlash for ‘risk-free’ comment

ESPN Bet Rece Davis
Image: ESPN Bet

ESPN host Rece Davis is under fire for equating a college basketball wager to a “risk-free investment.”

During an ESPN Bet segment on Sunday, betting analyst Erin Dolan and Davis were discussing the rationale of betting the under for a team’s total points in a March Madness matchup between UConn and Northwestern. Dolan explained her decision to bet Northwestern to score under 60.5 points in which Davis replied with a controversial comment.

“Some would call this wagering, gambling. I think the way you’ve sold this; I think what it is, is a risk-free investment,” said Davis during the segment.

Davis describing a sports wager as a risk-free investment is an issue that continues to be a topic of discussion throughout America’s regulated gambling industry.

In 2022, FanDuel and DraftKings eliminated “risk-free” and “free bet” terminology in their marketing following criticism of advertising practices in gambling.

Last year, New York became the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to take legislative action on the issue by approving an addendum to existing marketing rules to prohibit the use of misleading terms, including “risk-free.” The American Gaming Association has also taken a stance after updating its Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering to ban the use of “risk-free” in advertising.

Davis’ use of “risk-free” to describe Dolan’s wager immediately caused a stir within the gambling industry, which led to the long-time ESPN personality to issue a statement.

It is unclear whether ESPN, which has operations in New York, will face regulatory scrutiny for Davis’ use of “risk-free.”

ESPN Bet is experiencing growing pains

The operator is shrouded in controversy following its launch in November 2023 as a rebrand of Barstool Sportsbook. ESPN Bet is live in 18 states after recently gaining market access in North Carolina, which is America’s newest online sports betting market.

ESPN Bet, operated by PENN Entertainment, secured market access in the Tar Heel State through a partnership with private golf club Quail Hollow Club.