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ESPN strikes wagering content, ad deal with Caesars Entertainment

ESPN has made its biggest entry to date into the world of legalised US wagering with a new partnership with Caesars Entertainment. But the multi-year pact is still designed in large part to support the network’s base of existing programming.

In a deal unveiled Tuesday in New York to advertisers of ESPN-parent The Walt Disney Co., ESPN has aligned with Caesars to develop a new ESPN-branded studio at the LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas that will open sometime next year. The casino entertainment company will become ESPN’s official odds data supplier and will have a series of advertising and sponsorship activations across ESPN platforms. 

The agreement builds significantly upon ESPN’s recently debuted betting-related show, Daily Wager. But unlike rival sports programmer Fox, which is creating a mobile application for real-money wagering called Fox Bet in partnership with The Stars Group, ESPN does not intend to be a bookmaker itself.

“We think the proliferation of legal sports wagering is going to create more engaged sports fans that will manifest itself in terms of increased viewership for both reach and time spent,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice-president of programming and scheduling.

Magnus’ colleague, ESPN executive vice-president of content Connor Schell, said the Caesars tie-in will not be a major presence within actual live event programming and will not lead to the company taking bets.

“We’re thinking about the space in very responsible ways,” Schell said. “We’re going to serve those fans with information and analytics. We are not promoting betting in any way. But we know there are sports fans who are interested in that type of content.”

The pair of comments echo Disney chief executive Bob Iger, who told financial analysts and investors last week: “We’ll provide programming that will, I guess, be designed to enlighten people who are betting on sports. But that’s as far as we would go.”

The ESPN-Caesars alignment extends a flurry of deal-making between casino operators and American sports entities of various types since the US Supreme Court a year ago overturned a federal ban on sports wagering. Turner-owned Bleacher Report in February rolled out a similar agreement with Caesars Entertainment to create a similar studio inside of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to support its own betting-related programming.