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Disney gets into sports gambling with launch of ESPN Bet

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ESPN Bet, a sports-gambling service rebranded with the name of the Disney-owned sports channel, launched Tuesday in 17 U.S. states.

Penn Entertainment, which owns the service, signed a $1.5 billion deal with ESPN for rights to the sports media giant’s name in August. Under the agreement, Penn will operate ESPN Bet while ESPN promotes the app across its online and broadcast platforms.

A Penn spokesperson said the ESPN Bet app was also scheduled to launch Tuesday afternoon, but did not provide a specific time.

ESPN Bet was set to go live in the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Under August’s agreement, Penn’s rights to the ESPN brand will initially run for a decade with the option of extension for another 10 years. In addition to the $1.5 billion licensing deal, Penn also said it would grant ESPN rights worth about $500 million to purchase shares in Penn.

ESPN Bet is a rebranding of an existing sports-betting app, Barstool Sportsbook. In August, Penn said it sold Barstool Sports back to its founder Dave Portnoy.

The upcoming launch of ESPN Bet could take Walt Disney Co. into uncharted waters. Disney is fiercely protective of its family-friendly image, not typically associated with the world of sports gambling.

At the time of August’s agreement, ESPN said it will use its platforms “to educate sports fans on responsible gaming” — for instance, by continuing to cover the sports betting industry with “journalistic integrity,” creating a “responsible gaming” committee within the company and developing marketing guidelines that “safeguard” fans.

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