ESPN BET Exec Addresses Relationship Between Reporters and Sportsbook, Regulatory Issues & More

ESPN BET Exec Addresses Relationship Between Reporters and Sportsbook, Regulatory Issues & More article feature image

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ESPN BET — a collaboration between Penn Entertainment and ESPN — will launch next month. There's a lot in flux as to how the relationship will work — how does the company avoid conflicts of interest between its insiders and oddsmakers? Can employees bet on their own platform, like Barstool employees did with Barstool Sportsbook? How will ESPN BET be integrated into broadcasts sent out to tens of millions of people?

With that in mind, we sat down with Mike Morrison, the vice president of sports betting at ESPN, to clarify as much as he could tell us in the moment.

Rovell: How and in what capacity will ESPN BET appear on broadcasts? 

Morrison: We will have a unified approach to ESPN BET branding that will cascade across all ESPN platforms.

Rovell: Does Penn have exclusive rights in any set of broadcasts where only ESPN BET will be featured (i.e. SportsCenter)?

Morrison: ESPN BET will be the exclusive and official odds provider to ESPN, and be fully exclusive to ESPN original content and studio programming once some legacy sponsorships expire.

Editors note: Caesars is currently the official odds provider for ESPN. ESPN BET will overtake that deal when it expires.

Rovell: What is the mandate for live in-game integration? What are the rules for announcers, are they allowed to refer to live odds, are they being encouraged?

Morrison: We know sports fans are interested in live odds and other betting storylines, and as such, we expect to see live in-game integration where editorially appropriate.

Rovell: When Penn was Barstool, Barstool employees were encouraged and showed that they bet with Penn/Barstool. Will ESPN employees be encouraged or discouraged from using ESPN BET?

Morrison: ESPN is working through employee guidelines.

Rovell: Are there known regulatory issues that would preclude on air talent from using ESPN BET?

Morrison: ESPN is working through employee guidelines that would include on-air talent.

Rovell: Are there different classes of talent? News breakers vs. analysts vs. random talking heads. Meaning are there different rules for different categories of talent?

Morrison: ESPN will continue its high standard of journalistic integrity, and insiders will remain independent from ESPN BET.

Rovell: How do Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnorowski break news in this era, knowing that Penn Gaming would like to have their information before? What connection do they have to the risk room?

Morrison: There will be no connection between ESPN insiders, reporters, and newsdesk with the PENN Entertainment risk room.

Rovell: How much is ESPN paying attention to the tick tock of how everything goes down, such as the order when, say, LeBron breaks something, news circulates, news is reported, odds change, odds are talked about. How much attention is ESPN paying to make sure that this process doesn't seem compromised?

Morrison: PENN Entertainment is managing all aspects of the sportsbook. ESPN will continue to report on news as it traditionally always has.

Rovell: Is there a third party that has been charged to monitor breaking news and odds changes?

Morrison: No.

Rovell: Sometimes the news is wrong. In this day in age, when the news is wrong, odds and betting are affected. Is there a style change in language that perhaps now expresses that what once was seen as a done deal, might not be? Are there an additional layer of responsibility for the news breakers? Do they have to take any training or course on all of this? Is there any additional gambling caveats with employees in training now that the ESPN brand is on a book?

Morrison: The accuracy of our reporting has always been paramount, and that does not change.

Rovell: How does the risk room get information? Do they have access to ENPS, ESPN's internal system?

Morrison: No, PENN Entertainment will only have access to public information and will not have access to ENPS, ESPN’s internal system.

Rovell: Is talent allowed to strike their own deals? Are there incentives or staying with ESPN BET?

Morrison: ESPN is in the process of determining which talent may be involved with the promotion of ESPN BET.

Rovell: Where is Penn/ESPN on deposit bonuses and are bonuses looped in with other ESPN assets?

Morrison: PENN Entertainment is managing all aspects of the sportsbook’s operations.

Rovell: Does Penn get ESPN's database of ESPN+ subscribers?

Morrison: We are collaborating with PENN Entertainment to maximize awareness of ESPN BET.

Rovell: Will articles link to ESPN BET?

Morrison: Yes, we will have editorial contextual links where appropriate.

Rovell: How will ESPN BET be integrated in ESPN's app or ESPN+?

Morrison: More to come.

Rovell: Will there be sports that can be watched live with an ESPN BET integration? If so, which ones. If eventually, what is the timeline?

Morrison: More to come.

Rovell: Are there any rights partners that have expressed that they do not want ESPN BET integration?

Morrison: All integrations are subject to rights agreements.

Rovell: How does the broadcast and integration of ESPN BET into the broadcast differ on college sports versus pros?

Morrison: There will be differences based on rights and regulatory considerations.

ESPN BET Set to Launch November 14th

ESPN BET will be going live on November 14, 2023. New users will be able to register for the sportsbook using an ESPN Bet promo code for an exclusive welcome offer. Check back with Action Network for the official launch time and welcome offer details!

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