No Hitches Seen In ESPN Replacing Barstool, Say Massachusetts Regulators

Written By Dan Holmes on August 17, 2023 - Last Updated on August 18, 2023
MGC doesn't see any red flags as Barstool begins its rebrand to ESPN Bet on PENN's betting platform, from

During a Thursday meeting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission discussed specifics about how ESPN Bet may enter the sports betting market in Massachusetts.

Most notably, PENN Entertainment will not need to reapply for a license, since the ESPN deal is a rebranding, rather than a whole new platform launch.

Massachusetts sports betting apps launched earlier this year, and ESPN Bet — which currently operates as Barstool Sportsbook — will join seven other platforms in the Massachusetts market this fall.

Different sportsbook, same betting technology

While the Barstool Sportsbook Massachusetts brand will no longer exist in the Commonwealth, PENN has told the MGC that the same betting platform used for Barstool Sportsbook will be used for ESPN Bet when it relaunches.

Because of this, Loretta Lillios, Director of the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau of the MGC, explained that in her opinion PENN does not need to reapply for a license, as PENN’s existing Massachusetts sports betting license will cover ESPN Bet. Essentially, the new $1.5 billion deal between PENN and ESPN is a rebranding package on the same sportsbook technology.

In addition, according to Lillios, PENN told the IEB that they want to shut down Barstool “by November.”

That lines up with the timeline given by PENN CEO Jay Snowden, who stated last week that the company hopes to get everything switched over from Barstool to ESPN branding in November “certainly before Thanksgiving.”

How Plainridge Park Casino factors in

PENN holds both a Category 1 and Category 2 Sports Wagering license in Massachusetts, meaning it can operate an online sportsbook as well as a retail sportsbook in the state.

Through a partnership with Plainridge Park Casino, PENN has a retail Barstool Sportsbook at its facility in Plainridge. Once ESPN Bet is authorized in Massachusetts, it’s likely that space will be completely rebranded as well.

In fact, it was revealed Thursday that some of the Barstool Sportsbook at Plainridge Park Casino has already begun the process of taking down the Barstool brand.

Barstool discarded in favor of ESPN

Last year, Barstool co-founder Dave Portnoy came under intense scrutiny from the MGC during the license application process in Massachusetts.

At issue were allegations directed at Portnoy regarding a flippant attitude toward responsible gambling, as well as concerns over his personal finances. The company also faced scrutiny for the promotion of “Can’t Lose” bets, as well as allegations in other states of advertising its sportsbook on college campuses.

Ultimately, PENN had to assure the regulatory body that a Barstool Sportsbook would commit to responsible gambling and adhere to regulations on advertising and promotions.

ESPN Bet aiming for higher market share

Many industry observers believe an ESPN-branded sportsbook could siphon a portion of the market share that is currently dominated by DraftKings Massachusetts and FanDuel Massachusetts. Those two sports betting apps accounted for 80.3% of the total wagers placed in July in the Commonwealth.

So far, Barstool Sportsbook has ranked fourth in the state based on total handle. More specifically, Barstool has generated $98.2 million in total handle, resulting in $7.9 million in revenue.

For comparison, DraftKings has generated over $1 billion in handle and $103.5 million in total revenue.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a Staff Writer for PlayMA with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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