Disney, PENN Targeting Mid-November Launch for New Sportsbook “ESPN Bet”

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
USA Legal Betting


  • ESPN Bet is hoping to acquire a 10% market share within three years
  • PENN and Disney can opt-out of their 10-year deal after three years
  • ESPN plans to integrate sports betting with its traditional content and live-streaming

Disney and PENN Entertainment are preparing to launch the legal sports betting platform ESPN Bet in mid-November, ESPN announced Tuesday.

The brand-new sportsbook will launch in 16 states and will combine traditional sports wagering with ESPN’s unique content offerings. PENN CEO Jay Snowden said that users will have the opportunity to submit their best “certainly before Thanksgiving.”

The goal is for ESPN Bet to acquire a 10% market share within three years and to eventually rival top operators FanDuel and DraftKings.

A new competitor awaits

PENN agreed to pay $2 billion in cash and stock over 10 years in exchange for the ESPN name and branding on the new sportsbook. It also sold Barstool Sportsbook back to founder Dave Portnoy for $1 to free itself of any conflicting interests.

ESPN Bet will initially go live in 16 states where PENN is already licensed. The mid-November launch date is somewhere between Weeks 10-12 of the NFL season and a little less than a month into the 2023-24 NBA season.

Snowden believes that the targeted launch date will allow the platform to capitalize on high interest in sports (with NFL and NBA betting) and the opportunity to dish out promo offers.

“I also think the time of year that we’re launching, mid-season, is actually great,” said Snowden. “I think we’re going to be able to make a lot of noise, get a lot of attention. And you’re coming in at a point in the year where people have probably burned through most of their free bet promos and deposit matches and so to be able to sort of reload mid-year with a new app and new experience that’s fully integrated with ESPN, I think that speaks to top of funnel.”

ESPN sees this as an opportunity to seamlessly blend sports betting with traditional sports coverage and media offerings. It also believes that adding sports betting to its repertoire will provide a more robust experience to customers who are increasingly in search of greater access and personal choice.

“Our primary focus is always to serve sports fans and we know they want both betting content and the ability to place bets with less friction from within our products,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The strategy here is simple: to give fans what they've been requesting and expecting from ESPN.”

Preparing for launch

ESPN has not provided specifics on the launch date or what users can expect in the way of promotions. However, it can leverage its ESPN+ package and offer special deals to subscribers or integrate ESPN Bet with its live-streaming of various events.

The majority of traditional sports betting outlets have lost traction (with respect to percentage share) as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars solidified their stance in the market. But Fanatics, and now, ESPN Bet, have emerged as top rivals that both have unique offerings and approaches.

Wall Street Journal previously reported that ESPN was in talks with DraftKings and Rush Street Interactive before it settled on PENN as a partner. The companies also have the option to back out of the deal after three years if they fail to hit their goal of at least 10% market share.

PENN and Barstool also had lofty ambitions but found it hard to grow because of a series of controversies attached to Portnoy, including a New York Times hit piece.

Disney CEO Bob Iger previously said he didn’t “[for][see The Walt Disney Company, certainly in the near term, getting involved in the business of gambling.” Former CEO Bob Chapek, whose two-year tenure as CEO was riddled with controversy, first expressed solid interest in sports betting.

Major events in mid-November include a Super Bowl rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football on November 20 in and the Milwaukee Bucks at the Boston Celtics on November 22.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.