Penn Entertainment might not have hit the mark with their sports betting app, but they think a new name would fix the problem. With a $1.5 billion and other considerations deal, the casino has licensed the exclusive rights to the ESPN name. With ESPN owned in whole by the Walt Disney Corporation, the company has been firmly entrenched against casinos.
Under the agreement, Penn Bet will be operating the app, and ESPN will be promoting the app online and during broadcasts to ensure the word gets out. The app will also have advanced access to the various talents employed by ESPN. Good for a decade, it can be extended by an additional decade with both parties consent. In addition to the deal, ESPN will be granted rights worth roughly $500 million to buy shares in Penn Entertainment.
Disney has had ties to adult-themed entertainment in the past. Their Orlando, FL Walt Disney World location housed “Pleasure Island” in what is now The Landing at Disney Springs. Hidden away from the main park, they featured bars, nightclubs, and music venues as well as restaurants, not to mention their “New Year’s Eve” themed nightclub that did nightly champagne toasts and fireworks. Shut down in 2008 as people stopped taking breaks from their kids to have fun as adults, the district and all of Disney Springs are incredibly family-friendly.
Penn has been a busy company as of late. Originally they took a 36% stake in Barstool Sports from owner Dave Portnoy back in 2020 for $163 million. After Dave tanked the company further, Penn acquired the rest of the brand for $388 million. Announced almost simultaneously with the Disney deal, Portnoy took back over full ownership of Barstool Sports, but neither side has announced the details of the deal.
In a video clip on X (formerly Twitter), Portnoy shared his excitement to own the company outright again and admitted that regulated gambling was no place for their kind of content. He underscored that he won’t be selling off the company, and he seems more committed than ever to the brand.
One key part of the deal is that Penn would collect 50% of any proceeds involving any future sale or any funds from the “monetization” of the brand. Given Portnoy’s love of the limelight and pushing the brand name on anything that will give him a nickel, he’ll likely be forking over monetization funds every quarter.
This deal aligned Disney in direct conflict with the Seminole tribes in Florida. With their exclusive sports betting deal with the state, they have been tied up in litigation and court cases over their also approved live roulette and craps deals. This has taken hundreds of millions of potential revenue from the Seminole tribe, as well as tax dollars from the state.
Under their deal, the state of Florida wouldn’t get much of any of the funds. This undermines exactly what DeSantis has been trying to do with the Floridian voted on sports gambling. All these changes are designed to detract money away from Disney and its parks. Families would be happier to spend extra gambling than at their parks. By partnering with Penn, they hedge their bets.
The divide in Florida has evolved. It is no longer right versus left, Republican vs. Democrat for the Floridians. Instead, it is now DeSantis vs. Disney. The two are divided on everything from sports betting franchises or their stance on LGBTQ rights. Sexuality in schools, to the history of slavery in this country. People in Florida are largely finding themselves agreeing with one side over the other.
Those supporting the mouse overlords are spending more money at the parks and movies than in years before. People opting to back DeSantis are avoiding any and everything that is related to Disney. In Florida especially, it can be difficult, but they are finding ways to do it.
For gamblers, this is something they need. The Seminole tribe has had a monopoly on gambling except for state lotto, horse racing, and OTB locations. Slots and table games have been reserved for reservation lands, and this competition is healthy.