PENN Entertainment, the global casino, gaming, hotel and resort giant behind the ESPN BET brand, will launch online sportsbooks in 17 states from November 17. But PENN’s determination to add New York to its rapidly expanding betting portfolio is likely to be more challenging.
With a stated initial focus on the biggest states for casino revenue, PENN Entertainment will look to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan as gaming markets to conquer while offering a quick route into the sports betting consciousness of the players it intends to acquire in each. And that’s a blueprint for ESPN BET to arrive in New York.
Beginning its rebrand from Barstool to ESPN BET several months ago, PENN Entertainment has been circling the New York sports betting market for some time.
It was reported that the company that traces its gambling roots back to the 1960s was originally considered as part of a mega bid to launch in the Empire State.
That rumor had the brand joining with DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM in applying for a joint license to operate in New York when betting was legalized in January 2022.
It was later suggested that the controversial reputation of Barstool had ultimately put off its potential partners.
The game-changer for PENN though, came when it entered into a 10-year partnership with ESPN, one of the world’s most recognizable names in sports media. With the might of Disney behind ESPN, no operator adopting its moniker is going to have anything but plans for global domination.
Like others, such as Bet365, after its initial NY setback, PENN retreated to consider its next move in attempting to access the biggest state for sports betting. A re-energised effort looks to be approaching.
However, with New York legislators only allowing for nine legal sportsbook slots, a regulatory change may yet be required. But it’s not the only option.
Back in 2021, PENN CEO Jay Snowden observed of the New York gambling scene, “You’d rather be in than not be in…it's one of those states where if you’re not in, you’re not crushed by it either.”
That forecast is already playing out as the NY sports betting industry both rapidly matures but also reconfigures.
With some of the smaller NY sportsbooks seemingly considering their futures, an opening for ESPN Bet may appear sooner than any amendment to state betting laws.
We’ve already seen PointsBet shut up shop after Fanatics acquired their US operation and BallyBet’s temporary closure to revamp its offering could be a last throw of the dice.
Meanwhile, WynnBet remains committed to New York after withdrawing from most of its other US regional markets, but a sustained period of slow growth and any disappointment around future casino and gaming opportunities could see them move away too.
All that could pave the way for a fresh battle for supremacy among North America’s gambling giants. FanDuel and DraftKings have had much of the opening salvos go their way in the early rounds of the New York fight for sportsbook supremacy.