ESPN and sports media are betting on gambling content

Network partnering with Caesars Entertainment

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
Copyright 2019 CNN

First it was Turner Sports, then Fox Sports and now it's ESPN's turn. Sports media is betting big on sports gambling.

ESPN announced on Tuesday that it is partnering with Caesars Entertainment to build a new ESPN-branded studio at its LINQ Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The studio will launch next year and it will serve as a "hub" for sports betting-related content across ESPN's TV, digital and social platforms, while providing coverage for the growing number of sports events that take place in Las Vegas.

In this new partnership, Caesars will also be ESPN's official sports-odds data supplier.

"The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before," Mike Morrison, ESPN's vice president of business development said in a statement. "We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way."

The network has already created multiple shows related to gambling including "Daily Wager" on ESPN News. It also has segments and discussions about sports betting in some of its flagship series like SportsCenter and Outside the Lines.

Darren Rovell, who worked at ESPN for nearly 13 years before joining the Action Network as its business of sports betting reporter, called the partnership "a watershed moment."

"I remember when they wouldn't let us reference team names (only city names) whenever I referred to odds, concerned about how the leagues would react," Rovell tweeted on Tuesday. "Times have changed."

Other major sports media properties like Turner Sports have entered into partnerships to expand its gambling coverage. Fox Sports is going so far as to facilitate sports bets.

Turner, which like CNN is owned by WarnerMedia, struck an agreement with Caesars Entertainment in February to develop gaming content and build a Bleacher Report branded studio that will reside within Caesars Palace.

Fox Sports will be partnering with the Star Group, an online gambling company, to create a new app that will allow users in states where gambling is legal to place wagers on the outcomes of sporting events, the company announced earlier this month.

It's unlikely that ESPN, which is owned by Disney, will help facilitate sports gambling anytime soon. Disney CEO Bob Iger said during an earnings call earlier this year that he doesn't see the company "getting involved in the business of sports gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way."

The recent sports gambling boom started after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports gambling exactly a year ago on Tuesday. The 6-3 ruling on May 14, 2018 cleared the way for several states to legalize sports betting.

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